After A Violent Clash On Friday, Protesters And Police Clash Again Over Who Was To Blame

Miracle Boyd
Miracle Boyd, 18, says she had her teeth knocked out by a Chicago police officer during Friday’s protest targeting the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park. Patrick Smith / WBEZ
Miracle Boyd
Miracle Boyd, 18, says she had her teeth knocked out by a Chicago police officer during Friday’s protest targeting the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park. Patrick Smith / WBEZ

After A Violent Clash On Friday, Protesters And Police Clash Again Over Who Was To Blame

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The 18-year-old activist who says her teeth were knocked out during a protest Friday in downtown Chicago wants to sit down for a “peace circle” with the officer who hit her and says he should be stripped of his police powers.

Miracle Boyd talked about her injuries at a press conference Monday morning at the same time that Police Superintendent David Brown was defending police, saying they were under attack by protesters hurling hard objects at officers. The two press conferences were part of a war of words over who was to blame for violence and chaos at Friday’s protest, which targeted the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park.

“I was unjustly attacked by a Chicago police officer and had my teeth knocked out,” Boyd said. “There was no way I should have left a protest bruised and battered for exercising my freedom of speech and freedom to assemble. I am disgusted.”

At the press conference, about 100 people gathered in support of Boyd in front of a statue of George Washington in the South Side’s Washington Park. The group chanted in support of Boyd as she stepped to the mic: “We, we, we love you, you, you.”

“I am calling for the officer who attacked me to be relieved of his duties and have a peace circle with me to repair the harm he has caused,” Boyd said. “This will show the power of restorative justice and how we can make our communities safer without police.”

Video shared by the youth activist group GoodKids MadCity appears to show a Chicago police officer swing at Boyd as she backed away from him during Friday’s protest. Boyd said the slap knocked out her front teeth and, on Monday, she opened her mouth to show the damage.

Boyd refused to answer questions at the press conference, referring reporters to her attorney, Sheila Bedi.

people gather in support of Miracle Boyd
Around 100 people gathered in support of Boyd at Monday’s press conference. Patrick Smith / WBEZ

Bedi said in the moments leading up to the blow, Boyd was exercising her First Amendment rights.

“What that video shows is Miracle backing away from the police officer, expressing her opinion of the Chicago Police Department. And, in direct retaliation for her expressions, lethal force was used against her,” Bedi said.

Brown, asked Monday how CPD was responding to the Boyd incident, said the department will “conduct a thorough investigation of any and all allegations and take the appropriate action.”

Alycia Kamil, an organizer with GoodKids MadCity, said the attack on Boyd was emblematic of CPD’s violence against protesters.

“Police officers were brought in to circle a group of young, unarmed, innocent … people. They brought out tear gas, instances of police brutality. People with their heads busted open, people who couldn’t breathe throughout the rest of the night. People whose skin was burning from pepper spray,” Kamil said. “This is a continuous thing that has been happening within these last few months of actions.”

At CPD headquarters, meanwhile, Brown and other police officials held a news conference in which they played their own videos of the confrontation. Those included an overhead recording that showed at least a dozen people with black umbrellas moving toward the police.

Belmont Area Cmdr. Daniel O’Shea said the umbrellas were intended to “shield” crowd members who were changing into all-black clothing.

The overhead video showed one member of the crowd changing into black clothing before the melee. That recording shows another protester distributing objects that O’Shea described as “weapons” for throwing at the police.

Brown blamed the confrontation on “criminal agitators” who “pelted fireworks, frozen water bottles and other projectiles at our officers.”

“Peaceful demonstrations have been hijacked by organized mobs yet, in the face of this action to provoke a violent response, the vast majority of officers have been professional and have exhibited great restraint,” Brown said.

David Brown
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown speaks at a news conference May 26, 2020. Addressing Friday’s confrontation between police and protesters at Grant Park, he blamed ‘criminal agitators.’ Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

The superintendent said 49 police officers were injured in the confrontation. Those included 18 sent to area hospitals for injuries. The wounded cops, Brown said, included a sergeant who suffered a broken eye socket due to a thrown object.

Brown said protecting the Columbus statue was a matter of life and death: “If the statue was successfully toppled, likely members of that crowd — in that mob — would have been seriously injured or killed.”

Brown said “mob action” at downtown protests like the one at the Columbus statue also “forces” CPD to relocate officers from parts of the city where they would be working against community violence.

“Diverting resources because of mob actions like these puts lives at risk on our South and West sides,” Brown said.

As the police clashed with the Grant Park protesters, Chicago began the latest in a series of weekends with intense gun violence. From Friday evening through Sunday night, according to CPD, the city had 12 murders and 63 shooting victims. That lifted CPD’s 2020 murder tally to 414, the highest year-to-date murder count since the mid-1990s, a WBEZ analysis of CPD data shows.

Bedi, one of Boyd’s attorneys, rejected CPD’s claims of outside “criminal agitators” as a “red herring.”

“Throughout the uprisings, what we’ve seen is police brutalizing people with lethal force, batons, strikes to the head. That is lethal force,” Bedi said. “It’s very clear that the agitators are the Chicago Police Department.”

Patrick Smith and Chip Mitchell report on criminal justice for WBEZ. Follow them at @pksmid and @ChipMitchell1.