Live Updates: Chicago Protests and Unrest

George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police set off several days of protest against police brutality in Chicago. WBEZ covered the events and aftermath as they unfolded from May 31 - June 14, 2020.

Skokie vigil among Chicago-area demonstrations today

Skokie vigil among Chicago-area demonstrations today
Hundreds gathered in Skokie’s Oakton Park for a Black Lives Matter vigil this afternoon. WBEZ

Hundreds of people gathered in Skokie’s Oakton Park for a Black Lives Matter vigil this afternoon, one of many demonstrations held in the Chicago area today.

Pat Savage-Williams, president of the Evanston Township High School School Board, read out loud a long list of names of African-American men, women and children who have died at the hands of police in recent years. The first name she read was that of George Floyd.

“The list keeps getting longer and longer,” Savage-Williams said to the crowd sitting on the grass of a baseball field. She also spoke about her personal experience of 25 years of living in Skokie as a black person.

“I had to explain to my kids why people don’t acknowledge us when we go to the park. Folks don’t even say hi to us. They treat me like I’m invisible,” Savage-Williams said. “I had to teach my kids when they were younger not to get too upset about that. Because that’s their problem, not our problem.”

Near the end of the program, attendees knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time a Minneapolis police officer kept his right knee on George Floyd’s neck.

At the end of the eight minutes, participants cried out “Mama,” referencing Floyd’s last words.

Vigil attendees said the event was a moving and powerful tribute, and they hope for lasting change in Skokie and elsewhere.

U of C students occupy campus police building

A 20-hour protest by University of Chicago students who want the South Side school to defund and disband its police force ended peacefully this morning. Students occupied the police building yesterday, and dozens of them spent the night inside without food, water or access to bathrooms.

The students ended their demonstration inside around 10:30 this morning. University Police Chief Kenton Rainey told the students that he and the provost will meet with them Monday, WBBM Newsradio reported.

“We are still going to fight for the demands we believe,” said Roma Linares, one of the protesters. The students estimated that about 150 of them took part in the protest, either inside or outside the building.

A university spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Kids-focused events among local demonstrations today

Children’s Demonstration
Steven Westman and his friend Juan Teague participate in a kids march to end racism on Chicago's South Side on Saturday morning. Westman brought his children Jamarion (right), Jaylen and Jacob (left, in stroller). Michael Puente / WBEZ

Numerous rallies, marches or other events calling for an end to racism and police brutality are being held in Chicago today, including two where the goal was teaching children about peaceful protest.

One event began at 9 a.m. at Mandrake Park at 3858 S. Cottage Grove Ave. on the city’s South Side. Around 300 people made signs and then marched to the Rainbow PUSH headquarters at 50th and S. Drexel Blvd.

“I’m exhausted because I had to walk a mile from the park to over here,” said nine-year-old Jaylen Westman.

Westman participated in his first protest march to end racism that was geared for children.

“I learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Westman said.

Steven Westman, who is white, wanted to bring his three African-American children to the march for better understanding of the issues for himself and them.

“To be frank, I rely on a lot of my black friends,” he said. “I know you’re not supposed to lean on your black friends to tell you everything about black people but as a white father of three black boys I feel like there are questions that I am not best served answering. Events like this are beyond helpful in betting a better dad, being a better citizen and being a better mentor to these guys.”

The event was sponsored by Jack and Jill of America Inc., a group founded in 1938 that creates opportunities for American American children.

Another event dubbed “Kid-In Humboldt Park” was planned from noon to 2 p.m. on the West Side and described itself as a “kid-led expression around racial justice and in defense of black lives.” That gathering was encouraging families to bring signs, instruments, kites and sidewalk chalk,” among other things.

At least six other demonstrations are planned to take place in the city and suburbs today.

After decades of police corruption, Chicago takes a fresh look at reform

The movement to reform the Chicago Police Department is once again a top political priority after days of protests and looting in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. The national convulsions over racial injustice and policing have spawned calls for a variety of changes here — from siphoning money away from CPD and into social and community-based programs, to removing cops from public schools, to abolishing the department altogether.

But the city’s history is littered with examples of stymied or slow-moving police reform efforts.

Read the full story.

Poetry Foundation executives step down

The president and board chair of the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation have stepped down following an open letter criticizing its response to nationwide protests against racist policing. More than 1,800 people signed the letter pledging not to work with the foundation until President Henry Bienen and Board Chair Willard Bunn III resigned and it redirected some of its more than $250 million endowment toward anti-racism efforts.

The letter called the foundation’s initial response to be “worse than the bare minimum.”

Officer who flipped double bird at protesters placed on desk duty

The Chicago police officer who was caught on camera giving protesters the middle finger last week has been stripped of his police powers and reassigned to administrative duties, according to the police department.

According to a police statement, Superintendent David Brown made the decision to place the officer on desk duty for “conduct unbecoming,” after the officer “used a vulgar, offensive gesture directed at a member of the public while on duty and in uniform.”

The Police Department would not name the officer.

Cubs will create diversity committee

The Chicago Cubs are creating a diversity committee to help improve the organization’s standards and practices. Owner Tom Ricketts and President of Business Operations Crane Kenney are leading the plans, according to President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have led sports organizations to take a closer look at their history and policies when it comes to diversity.

Epstein said the committee “can make sure we set better standards for ourselves and hold ourselves accountable and be better on this issue.” But he isn’t waiting for the committee when it comes to taking a closer look at his work, recently examining his own hiring practices.

“The majority of people that I’ve hired, if I’m being honest, have similar backgrounds as me and look a lot like me,” Epstein said. “That’s something that I need to ask myself why.”

In downtown Chicago, signs of a return to normalcy

Recovering from Chicago Unrest
Workers remove boards from store windows downtown. WBEZ

All around downtown Chicago this morning, there were signs that things are starting to return to normal after a week of civil unrest. Groups of riders were getting off trains at the Clark and Lake CTA station, and a few blocks away, a trio of contractors could be seen taking the boards off the windows of the Old Navy store on North State Street.

Today is the first day in more than a week that city buses and trains were stopping anywhere near downtown. Fairy Press, who works overnights in the Loop, said she had been spending about $60 a day on ride-shares, commuting to and from work, compared to about $5 a day on the CTA.

“I mean it was pretty bad, considering essential workers still have to get to work. So it was a hassle,” Press said of the city’s decision to severely restrict public transit and access to downtown after big protests and looting.

Ivory Rufus, a manager at the Dunkin’ Donuts just down the block from the Clark and Lake station, said business was picking up now that the CTA is running downtown again. His donut shop reopened last Tuesday after being closed for two days following weekend vandalism. But the store still has boards over its windows, and Rufus laughed when asked if things were returning to normal.

Chicago reopening libraries, some lakefront parks

As of today, Chicago is more back to “normal” than it has been in weeks. The city reopened access to downtown yesterday, including the resumption of CTA bus and train service that had been restricted after looting two weekends ago. A section of Lake Shore Drive that had been closed was reopened, and ramp closings on I-90/94 and I-290 were removed. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced yesterday she was lifting, effective immediately, the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew that went in place after looting.

Today the city is reopening many parks and libraries that were closed due to coronavirus precautions. The Chicago Park District said people can return to lakefront parks west of Lake Shore Drive, including Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park, Harold Washington Park and Jackson Park. All park field houses will be reopened from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for washrooms and shelter. The park district also said the Jackson Park Golf Course and Diversey Driving Range will reopen today.

Also today, the Harold Washington Library Center and many neighborhood library branches are reopening, although with social distancing and other safety guidelines in place. Those include restricted capacity, guided paths through aisles, and safe spacing of computers and furniture. Staff and patrons will be required to wear face masks.

West Side march heads to police station, ends with song

Danny Davis speaks at Demonstration
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) speaks in front of the 15th District police station. Monica Eng / WBEZ

Demonstrations protesting police brutality continued in Chicago today, as hundreds showed up for a faith-based march and rally on the West Side that ended at the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District station at 5701 W. Madison Ave. The peaceful demonstration was organized by local faith leaders and included elected officials.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) encouraged recent high school graduates in the neighborhood to go to college and then come back and become police officers. The rally ended with demonstrators singing “We Shall Overcome,” and one protester even hugged a police officer in front of the station as the song ended.