For the second year in a row, protesters rallied along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile urging a Black Friday boycott to raise awareness of police misconduct toward minorities and other inequalities in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Protesters gathered about 10 a.m. near Chicago’s old Water Tower monument on North Michigan Avenue. Activists spoke to the gathering about police shootings and the need for action. Some in the crowd chanted “No justice. No peace,” and “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Rahm Emmanuel has got to go.”
Shortly after 11 a.m. the crowd of about 150 to 200 people marched south along the Michigan Avenue sidewalk. Some gathered in front of the Ralph Lauren store and yelled, “Shut it down!” The group passed several high-end retail shops that dot the Magnificent Mile, breaking off into smaller groups.
One group linked arms in a circle outside the Victoria’s Secret store, but shoppers were able to enter and exit the store without a problem. Some onlookers snapped pictures of the protesters and carried on undeterred with their shopping.
As demonstrators were scheduled to begin the day’s protests, uniformed Chicago police officers convened in front of a handful of Michigan Avenue stores.
Traffic moved normally, leaving shoppers and tourists to amble freely along the street while helicopters whirred overhead. The lack of action allowed some officers to shake hands with passers-by in one case, or point a group of lost tourists toward Grand Lux Cafe.
Kirby Shaw, 23, handed out posters early Friday outside the old Chicago Water Tower, urging a civilian police oversight council.
The Los Angeles cook, in Chicago visiting his sister, said he was walking down the Magnificent Mile and decided to get involved after coming upon the gathering protesters. He said police misconduct, and Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, were motivators.
“I figured if I’m going to be writing about it on social media I should actually get involved,” Shaw said. “A lot of the same things that are going on here also are happening in LA, but you don’t hear about it as much.”
The protest was planned by a network of groups that includes the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Black Lives Matter. Organizers said they wanted to draw attention to a range of issues, including police mistreatment of minorities and economic inequalities that keep the city’s West and South sides plagued with gun violence and poverty.
Activists also are denouncing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new police oversight agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which they argue falls short of their call for the true independence of civilian-led oversight in cases of alleged police misconduct.
Lyons resident Barbara Lyons, 79, of Jewish Voice for Peace, said a mix of community groups is taking part in the protest, all with a similar message of inclusion.
“For some, it’s about the police; some it’s about immigration. It’s just all the people who are not (Trump supporters), and they’re afraid,” said the longtime activist.
“It just upsets me what kind of world my grandchildren will grow up in.”
As a shopper himself, Shaw said he understands some will not be happy with their message to boycott Black Friday, but “for one day of the year you cannot buy things and support your local retailers and help make a difference.”
Last year, an estimated crowd of 1,000 activists temporarily blocked traffic and access to about a dozen ritzy Michigan Avenue retailers to protest the recorded fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago police officer. The demonstration came days after release of disturbing dashcam footage of the October 2014 encounter, in which the teen is shot 16 times as he appears — with knife in hand — to be walking away from police.
Four people were arrested during that demonstration, also held the day after Thanksgiving.
Ally Marotti contributed.
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