Caught between a barricade of Chicago police officers stretched out along North Michigan Avenue on Black Friday and a group of chanting protesters, Rich Johnson said he didn’t get what all the fuss was about.
“They do a wonderful job. I mean, look at them,” said Johnson, gesturing at the officers, their faces impassive.
Then, a protester’s megaphone squawked: “CPD, KKK, how many kids have you killed today?!”
Johnson, 57, who was waiting outside Water Tower Place for his wife, shot back: “None. They haven’t killed any. Why don’t you get a job?”
Sharp-tongued exchanges were rare, though, as shoppers mostly ignored the demonstrators, whose Mag Mile marches have become a holiday tradition since the 2015 release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
Protesters were hoping a national anti-Donald Trump sentiment might boost their numbers, which have fallen considerably since the initial march. About 150 people turned out Friday, compared with the hundreds who blocked traffic on the city’s best-known shopping boulevard two years ago.
“There are almost more police out here than there are of us! To protect what? Profit,” demonstrator Jeff Baker said, as he rallied the crowd.
The protesters’ targets ranged from corporate greed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But mostly, they were there to complain loudly that not nearly enough has been done to reform what they see as a criminal justice system in Cook County rife with bias, corruption and general indifference to the suffering of many African-American and Latinos. They mocked the city’s new Civilian Office of Police Accountability Council, calling it a far short of what’s needed.
“CPD is not fixed until we say it’s fixed,” said William Calloway, a South Side community activist. “It’s not fixed because we have a black state’s attorney. It’s not fixed because we have a black [police] superintendent.”
The marchers made their way north from the old Water Tower to the Michigan Avenue Macy’s and American Girl Place. They were met mostly with indifference and the occasional look of bewilderment.
“I don’t like Trump, but I like Black Friday,” said one shopper, who wouldn’t give her name.
“Police do a great job in very trying circumstances,” said Maureen Mulville, in town from Peoria. “I protested against the [Vietnam] War in the 1970s, but I don’t agree with this.”