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Protesters decry fatal police shooting of Adam Toledo following video release

“The veil has been lifted, and what we’re seeing is that the Chicago police feel like they can go out in the streets and kill any boy, any one person,” a resident said about the killing.

Dozens of protesters march down the Magnificent Mile after the city of Chicago released the videos of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer, Thursday evening, April 15, 2021. Toledo was shot to death by an officer on March 29 in an alley west of the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue in Little Village on the Southwest Side. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Dozens of protesters march down the Magnificent Mile on Thursday after the city of Chicago released video of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Protesters took to the streets Thursday to condemn the police killing of Adam Toledo after the release of graphic video footage showed the 13-year-old appeared to be empty-handed when he was shot last month in Little Village.

A group of more than 50 people met in Millennium Park before marching downtown and shouting some of the slogans that were previously staples of the protests that roiled the city last summer.

“Lock the cop up!” they chanted.

Jose Herrera, who said Toledo was his cousin, drove around blasting Banda music and waving a Mexican flag, which he said was shattered by Chicago police officers.

“Those cops took my flag and broke it!” Herrera said, holding the busted staff in his hands. “I’m out here protesting the killing of my cousin. He doesn’t and didn’t deserve any of this.”

Herrera said a piece of him was lost when he saw the videos of Adam’s killing — a void, he said, that won’t ever be filled.

“My family is shattered right now, and, like this flag, it came at the hands of the police,” he said.

At a news conference in front of Public Safety Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., activist and former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green began an impassioned speech by tearing down a piece of police tape that cordoned off the entrance. Green notably called for the dismantling of the Police Department and urged Mayor Lori Lightfoot to resign over her handling of the shooting.

Community activist Ja’Mal Greene walks up and down a police line with his hands up outside Chicago Police Headquarters, during a protest in response to the release of the body camera footage that shows police killing Adam Toledo in late March, Thursday, April 15, 2021. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Community activist Ja’Mal Green walks up and down a police line with his hands up outside Chicago Police Headquarters during a protest Thursday after the release of body-camera footage that shows an officer killing Adam Toledo in late March.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

He claimed the mayor “demonized” Adam following his killing and mocked her appeals for peace ahead of the release of the video footage from the March 29 shooting. He also told reporters that he plans to march to the mayor’s house as part of a protest Friday in Logan Square.

“Lori Lightfoot herself said, ‘Oh, we need to figure out why he had a gun. He shouldn’t have been out there,’” Green said. “Now you want to say let’s calm the city down. But when do you say let’s calm these killings down that the Police Department are doing?”

Green and others in his group later goaded the roughly dozen officers holding a line in front of the station. But after a few tense interactions between officers and demonstrators, the crowd of roughly two dozen people left peacefully.

Earlier Thursday, the city — and Little Village especially — were on edge in the hours before the videos of the fatal shooting were released.

At the scene where Adam was killed, people walked past his memorial, decorated with stuffed animals, candles, flowers and a large white bow. People were anxious to see what the video showed and whether Adam was holding a gun when he was fatally shot by a police officer. While the video footage appears to show Adam with a gun moments before the shooting, his hands were raised and seemingly empty when he was struck by a single bullet.

Pastor Ramiro Rodriguez of Amor De Dios United Methodist Church kept busy by mowing the lawn around Adam Toledo’s memorial just an hour before the videos were released.

The videos dropped around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, and after he watched the footage, Rodriguez said, his thoughts were of his family.

“When I saw [Adam] with his hands up, my own children came to my mind. They grew up here, and it’s thanks to God they didn’t have any problems,” Rodriguez said in Spanish. “But now I have grandchildren who are growing up and they come to visit me happily, and I don’t want anyone to do that to them. It would break my heart.”

As a vehicle drove by blasting “F-k the Police” by rap group NWA, 69-year-old Francisco Herrerra said: “I understand that this kid left the house without permission while his parents slept ... and it’s a tremendous pain. I understand what they’re going through.”

About 10 community activists took to 26th Street to demand the mayor’s resignation, some gathering for a tearful embrace as passing vehicles honked in support.

“The veil has been lifted, and what we’re seeing is that the Chicago police feel like they can go out in the streets and kill any boy, any one person,” said Rey Wences, who said they attended the same middle school as Adam. “I don’t care who Adam was or what he was doing at 2:30 in the morning, I’m tired of all of that. The question is, why do police shoot to kill — and that has to be answered.”