Chicagoans March To Protest Racism and Police Abuse Of Black Residents

More than 200 people marched to protest the treatment of Black Chicagoans by police and racism in the city. Afternoon protests near Bronzeville were peaceful, but evening Downtown demonstrations became clashes with police.

Protest in Chicago
Protesters gathered near 47th and the Dan Ryan Expressway to call attention to racism and the treatment of Black people in Chicago. Vivian McCall / WBEZ
Protest in Chicago
Protesters gathered near 47th and the Dan Ryan Expressway to call attention to racism and the treatment of Black people in Chicago. Vivian McCall / WBEZ

Chicagoans March To Protest Racism and Police Abuse Of Black Residents

More than 200 people marched to protest the treatment of Black Chicagoans by police and racism in the city. Afternoon protests near Bronzeville were peaceful, but evening Downtown demonstrations became clashes with police.

More than 200 people marched Saturday in protest of the treatment of Black Chicagoans by Chicago police.

But while the afternoon march, which began near Bronzeville, went off peacefully, other demonstrations Downtown later in the evening resulted in clashes with police. Chicago police said Saturday evening that 24 people were arrested, including four for felonies, and 17 officers injured. Police said one person struck an officer with a skateboard.

Demonstrators Sunday said that police were the aggressors, and used batons and pepper spray and injured protesters before later blocking them from leaving.

Earlier on Saturday, protesters gathered in the Robert Taylor Park on 47th street to eulogize Black people who have been killed by police.

“I’m here because I need people to wake up,” said LaToya Howell, whose 17-year-old son Justus was killed by police in Zion in 2015. “This movement is not rooted in anger. It’s rooted in love.”

The march, organized by several community organizations, began with some vocal pushback from neighborhood activists, who said that some of the protesters didn’t represent their community’s interests.

Cassandra Greer-Lee, whose husband Nickolas Lee died in Cook County jail of COVID-19, lamented that division.

“Before my husband died I was just a teacher,” she said. “This is what happens when a community is divided.”

Similar disagreements played out Tuesday when some activists went to Englewood to protest, but were met with strong opposition from neighborhood older activists, as reported by Block Club Chicago.

But the march nonetheless resumed, as protesters called out racism in the city, and waved protest signs. Some brought their children.

The protesters then began marching toward the Dan Ryan Expressway, where they were going to reportedly attempt to block the road. They were met at the highway by a line of Chicago police, however, who turned them back toward State Street to march.

As the protesters headed east on 47th Street toward Indiana Avenue, business owners and employees looked out from stores, watching them pass.

The marchers headed north on Indiana Avenue and were followed by a heavy police presence of vehicles. Illinois State Police also watched on, some in riot gear, as marchers criticized the heavy police presence. Their presence was mocked by some of the protesters.

“You guys lookin extra…you looking dumb,” one called to state police.

But Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef urged others to rise above taunts.

“This is a eulogy for the lives lost today,” he said, adding he didn’t condone agitating police. He instead thanked the mothers who brought their children to be part of the day.

The lighter turnout may have thwarted attempts to get onto the Dan Ryan. One Chicago television reporter photographed small groups of protesters standing near the expressway’s on-ramps, apparently expecting to meet up with the larger protest group that never got close.

Downtown, protesters gathered at the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, and eventually marched on Michigan Avenue, blocking off traffic and chanting slogans suggesting Chicago police be defunded. Some gathered at the city’s raised bridges, where police blocked off access Saturday evening.

As the evening turned to night, some protesters Downtown clashed with police, with social media feeds showing both items thrown at police, and police using pepper spray and batons on protesters.

Saturday night, Supt. David Brown blamed outsiders for taking over what he said had been a peaceful demonstration. And on Sunday, police released video of the protests in which they say demonstrators attacked police. They also released the names and photos of three people Chicago police charged with felonies, including one man whom they said struck an officer with a skateboard.

But in posts on social media, some demonstrators said police pushed, struck and unlawfully detained them, injuring several. They said police blocked off their exits even when they wanted to leave and sprayed them with pepper spray without provocation.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended the police department’s actions.

She said some protesters were seeking a “fight” with police and that the city won’t tolerate demonstrators intent on hurting officers.

WBEZ reporter Dave McKinney contributed.

Vivian McCall is a news intern at WBEZ. Follow her @MVivianMcCall.