Black Friday on Magnificent Mile disrupted by protests

Laquan McDonald protester stands in front of police
Laquan McDonald protester stands in front of police during Black Friday protests on Michigan Avenue (Raquel Zaldivar/Medill).

By Patrick Martin, Max Greenwood and Aryn Braun

About 1,000 demonstrators protesting the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of police officer Jason Van Dyke took over Chicago’s storied Magnificent Mile Friday, barring patrons from storefronts and forcing some businesses to close early on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

In many stores, employees outnumbered shoppers, and several businesses locked their doors long before scheduled closing times. At the Apple Store, a sea of red-shirted employees who outnumbered shoppers gaped at protesters through the store’s glass facade.

Protesters called for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, as well as State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, as refrains of “Send Rahm to jail,” and “Justice or else,” were shouted through the streets.

Angry marchers claimed that city officials tried to orchestrate a cover-up of McDonald’s death, saying a dash-cam video of the shooting was withheld for too long after the incident, and prosecutors were slow to file charges against Van Dyke. A judge set Van Dyke’s bail at $1.5 million on Monday, which was posted later that day and he was released.

Police had a large presence on Michigan Avenue in anticipation of the protest, which began at 11 a.m. near Tribune Tower. Police were prepared for the demonstration and said they had sufficient backup on hand if necessary.

By late Friday afternoon, police had arrested a handful of protesters. Still, the demonstration largely remained peaceful.

The Chicago Teacher’s Union pledged their support to protesters and joined the Michigan Avenue demonstration.

“This is historic because we got everybody from the block to the boardroom out here,” yelled one protester, before a group attempting to enter Water Tower Place was barred by police.

Rev. Jesse Jackson led political and religious leaders at a rally of in front of the Old Water Tower near Michigan and Chicago Avenue around noon. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who lost the 2015 mayoral election to Rahm Emanuel,  stood behind Jackson on the steps of the tower.

Police line the streets as protesters march on Michigan Avenue
Police officers line the streets as protesters march on Michigan Avenue disrupting Black Friday shopping (Raquel Zaldivar/Medill).

Jackson attempted to lead the gathering in several chants, including counting to 16 for the number of rounds fired at Laquan McDonald. The 74-year-old civil rights leader was soon interrupted by a younger activist shouting into a megaphone just a few feet away. Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele reprimanded the activist and tried to get the man to stop interrupting the rally.  

“Let us remain disciplined and focused,” Jackson said before leading another chant. “This is not us. This is not our discipline.”

“We are not enemies! We are here together with one mission!” said one woman in Jackson’s party over the loudspeaker.

“Let the youth speak!” the crowd chanted as Reverend Jackson and his party pushed through the crowd to leave.  

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who stood near Jackson during the rally, said the established leadership of the black community and the black youth movement had the same goals.    

“I don’t feel any sense of disagreement at all, other than the utilization of different tactics and different approaches,” Davis said. He also said his teenage grandchildren wanted to go shopping with him on Black Friday, but he refused.   

“They need to know rather than taking them shopping, their grandfather is here where history is being made today,” Davis said.

By Monday, business leaders had estimated that spending was 25 percent to 50 percent less on Friday than projections, the Chicago Tribune reported, quoting store managers and staff.

Photo at top: Laquan McDonald protester stands in front of police during Black Friday protests on Michigan Avenue (Raquel Zaldivar/Medill).