CHICAGO — Braving cold temperatures, a light drizzle and a mighty wind that was miserable even by Second City standards, about 2,000 protesters took to Chicago’s glitzy Magnificent Mile shopping district on Friday afternoon to protest the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer and the city’s slow response to the incident.
Led by Jesse Jackson, protesters held signs reading “Stop Police Terror,” “White Silence = White Consent” and the like as they marched northward down the middle of Michigan Avenue on “Black Friday,” the traditional post-Thanksgiving day of shopping frenzy.
Police closed Michigan Avenue to vehicle traffic from Wacker Drive to the north end where Lake Shore Drive begins.
Small groups of protesters stationed themselves in front of the many high-end retailers along the wide boulevard. In several instances, they harassed shoppers and store employees.
Employees at Crate & Barrel reported that protesters were shoving customers inside the four-story store.
Demonstrators reportedly tried to enter a True Religion jeans store, which employees had locked.
At the Harley Davidson store, protesters managed to break through the locked doors, police radio traffic said.
At the Gap store on the corner of N. Michigan and Ohio Street, protesters reportedly barricaded the doors, trapping shoppers inside and refusing to let them leave.
Police also received reports that demonstrators were shoving people at a nearby Forever 21 store.
Chants were ample as the main mass of protesters ambled north on Michigan Avenue.
“We shut shit down,” was a common refrain. “This is what democracy looks like,” was another. “Justice for Laquan. Which side are you on?” and “16 shots” were still more.
At Chicago’s Water Tower Place mall, near the north end of the Magnificent Mile, protesters formed a human chain in front of some entrances, hemming in the Salvation Army bell ringer.
The effectiveness of the human chain was amplified by a line of police officers who used their police bikes to form a line in front of the remaining entrances.
Security guards at the multi-story mall anchored by Macy’s on one side and American Girl on the other asked shoppers inside to leave out the back entrance, across from the connected Ritz-Carlton hotel.
“We are closed indefinitely” a guard bellowed repeatedly.
Shoppers streamed out — some befuddled and a few angry.
Just north of Water Tower Place, protesters reportedly grabbed barricades at the Best Buy on the first floor of the John Hancock Center and used the barriers to prevent shoppers from both entering and leaving.
At the North Face store, also in the John Hancock, employees reported the same barricading.
Tourists and shoppers gawked at the events as they unfolded but generally continued to go about their business.
A small contingent of the Revolutionary Communist Party was on hand at Water Tower Place attempting — but largely failing — to co-opt the protest scene.
“Every democracy is also a dictatorship,” party member Grant Newburger instructed The Daily Caller in a brief interview.
Just after 4 p.m., a small group of protesters left Michigan Avenue and tried but failed to take over Lake Shore Drive, a very busy north-south thoroughfare.
By 4:30 p.m., large numbers of police officers were riding away from Michigan Avenue on their bicycles and squad cars moved to reopen the street to vehicle traffic.
A crowd of protesters attempted to prevent employees at the Nike store from going back to their jobs. Some demonstrators pushed shoppers.
There was a fracas involving a few dozen protesters at the Banana Republic which reportedly included some arrests.
On the whole, though, the protest was over by this point, and it ended not at all with a bang but with a gentle whimper.
By 5 p.m., Chicago’s streets were free and clear of protests. Commerce at the Magnificent Mile’s many loss-leader stores resumed peacefully.
Police presence remained high. Inside the warm and festive Water Tower Place, cops surfed their phones.
Inside the Drake Hotel, several cops took a load off. They complained to each other as well. “My legs hurt.” “My back hurts.” “It’s too cold!” “Is it almost over?”
McDonald, the teenager whose death has generated this week’s protests, died on October 20, 2014. Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times.
Van Dyke has been indicted on a single charge of first-degree murder.
The dashcam video showing McDonald’s death is painful to watch. It shows McDonald, who had a knife, walking away from police officers.
Van Dyke shot McDonald at a range of about 15 feet. He kept shooting — and shooting — after McDonald fell to the ground.
A judge has denied Van Dyke bail. The indicted officer currently resides in a hospital building in protective custody.
If convicted on the first-degree murder charge, Van Dyke will likely be sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life.
The Chicago Police Department has settled a civil suit with McDonald’s family for — reportedly — $5 million.
The McDonald family issued a statement this week asking residents to refrain from violence.
“No one understands the anger more than us,” the statement said.