Protesters Promise to Target Chicago's Premier Shopping District

  • Aim is to disrupt Magnificent Mile commerce on Black Friday
  • Demonstrations follow release of police-shooting video

Demonstrators confront police in Chicago following the release of a video on Nov. 24, 2015, showing officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Protesters threatened to disrupt Black Friday shopping along the Midwest’s most luxurious stretch of retail in response to the release of a video showing a white Chicago police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times.

Activists vowed to march along the city’s Magnificent Mile to protest police dashboard-camera footage that captured Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald even after he’d fallen to the ground. The 13-block strip includes some 460 stores, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s.

Blocking off an intersection on the southern end of Chicago’s downtown Tuesday night, in mostly peaceful protests, demonstrators shouted “No Black Friday!”

“It has to be an economic hit,” Father Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest and activist, said while walking with protesters on a breezy Chicago night. “That’s what people listen to -- money.”

Pfleger cited demonstrations on the University of Missouri’s campus. Only when the football team vowed to boycott the games that are an economic boon to the school and city of Columbia did president Tim Wolfe resign.

Speaking on a megaphone at the corner of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road, Malcolm X. London urged nonviolence, saying he didn’t want to have to protest the killing of a demonstrator. He called for the firing of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and promised protests Wednesday would be bigger. He was arrested shortly after speaking.

“While on the whole last night’s demonstrations were peaceful, a few isolated incidents resulted in five arrests related to resisting arrest and assaulting police officers,” Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, said in a statement.

London, 22, initially faced a felony count of aggravated battery to a police officer, but prosecutors dropped that charge later Wednesday. Allegations against others include a felony count of possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanors like resisting a police officer. There was no damage to private property, according to police.

The city council’s Black Caucus called for McCarthy’s ouster Wednesday, reiterating its demand last month that Mayor Rahm Emanuel fire him. Alderman Howard Brookins is planning to file a resolution for a vote of no confidence in the police superintendent at the next council meeting.

Pivotal Moment

The video’s release came about seven hours after Cook County prosecutors charged Van Dyke, 37, with first-degree murder, 13 months after he killed McDonald on the city’s southwest side. It’s the first time in almost 35 years that a city officer has faced such a charge for an on-duty killing, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Shortly before the city released the video Tuesday evening, Emanuel told reporters that the officer had violated the “basic standards that bind our community together.”

“Will we use this episode and this moment to build bridges that bring us together as a city, or will we allow it to become a way that erects barriers that tear us apart as a city?” he said. “It is fine to be passionate, but it is essential that it remain peaceful."

Hundreds of protesters made their way through major streets on the city’s Near South Side on Tuesday night, attempting at various points to block expressway traffic. Tensions escalated at Balbo Drive and Michigan Avenue as police got into a shoving match with protesters.

The protests in the nation’s third-largest city follow unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, where black residents died after encounters with police, setting off demonstrations that escalated into violence and looting.

Cook County prosecutors say Van Dyke began firing his 9 mm semiautomatic pistol about six seconds after getting out of his squad car during the October 2014 encounter. It took Van Dyke as long as 15 seconds to empty his weapon, and McDonald was lying on the ground for 13 of those seconds as his body jerked amid puffs of debris as bullets hit the pavement, according to prosecutors.

Van Dyke’s lawyer, Daniel Herbert, has said the shooting was justified because the officer feared for his life. Police have said that McDonald, who had PCP in his system, had been behaving erratically and didn’t obey orders to drop a folding knife.

A University of Chicago database of police interactions with citizens shows that Van Dyke had 18 complaints filed against him since he joined the force in June 2001. In April, Chicago took the unusual step of paying McDonald’s family a $5 million settlement. The family hadn’t even filed a lawsuit, according to the Tribune.

Chicago has a sordid history with police brutality. In May, the city formally apologized for 20 years of torture led by a white former commander against mostly black men. The city council unanimously approved a $5.5 million fund to provide reparations for those victims, who suffered beatings, electric shocks and simulated Russian roulette.

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