Hundreds march down Michigan Avenue to protest the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times

John Fountain: Old and young generations march for Laquan

A cold rain fell on Black Friday. It washed over Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile, like the chants of fervent protestors.

It was a cold, cold incessant rain that fell on a gray day. It mixed with a stubborn wind as hundreds marched, spurred by the video release of Laquan McDonald, 17, being gunned down by a Chicago cop. They blanketed streets, surrounded the castle-like, old Water Tower here.

Braved the cold, the wind and rain.

But after the rousing speeches, after all the poetic chanting, after the human barricades of stores along the glistening Gold Coast; after the waving of signs and the departure of the usual suspects known to turn up for television cameras; after all the passion and righteous indignation; after all that, I wondered:

Now what?

So what?

Where do we go from here?


Pressing my camera’s shutter with numb fingers, I absorbed the scene, standing at the intersection of two generations: The old and the young.

The once relevant ministers and politicians whose light, once upon a time, burned so bright but has now so clearly faded. The nameless, fameless young men and women, so far untainted by political corruption and status quo passivity.

The old who were once as opposed to “the system” as this generation is, back when they were young.

The young who — once their time has come and their victories are won — will inevitably face the temptation and same sins as their fathers and be challenged to do better, to be better, or else to become the same, to lose old gains.

The old who have yet to relinquish the reins of that old and glorious movement or at last to move over and pass the mantle; or even to groom a new generation for the fight and journey still ahead. The old whose time now has come and gone but still hold on with clinched fists to rhetoric, style and approach that have become relics.

The young, who, even on this day, spoke of causes — from justice for Laquan to public education, to an end to all violence, to “Black Lives Matter,” to political empowerment. The young who are black and white and brown. The young whose voices, which spilled into the air on Michigan Avenue — no matter how different —converged around one clear theme: justice, peace and equality for all.

Amid the call for justice and peace, amid the call for the heads of the mayor, the Cook County state’s attorney and the police superintendent over the delay of justice for Laquan, I could not shake from my mind so many others who also must be called into account. Not just for Laquan, but for the hundreds of people slain each year mostly in the city’s black and brown neighborhoods. Not by a white cop. But by someone black or brown.

I thought about the aldermen. The preachers. The teachers. The parents. The so-called community activists. The betrayers. Clearly, not all. But too many wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Those who curry political favor from the powers that be — at the expense of “the people.” Those who sit silent as poor communities are ravaged by violence, poverty and social neglect. Those who skim for themselves that which was meant for the poor then publicly keep declaring “we” need more.

We do.

The 16 shots absorbed by Laquan — one for nearly every year of his life — say we must do more.

That was as clear as the shoppers I saw, passing the protestors on the Magnificent Mile, toting countless bags of purchases on Black Friday, in the cold wind and rain.


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