CHICAGO – After days of protests in Chicago since the release of a video showing a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer, demonstrators were poised to disrupt Black Friday shopping with a march through the heart of the city's most famous retail district.
Demonstrators scheduled the march on Friday, the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season that packs Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile. Activists hope to bring attention to the Oct. 20, 2014, slaying of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and an investigation into his shooting that some say was mishandled.
"This is going to give an opportunity for all of Chicago to come out, demonstrate their outrage and their anger in a nonviolent way, (and) interrupt the economic engine of Black Friday," said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and prominent local activist.
The graphic dashcam video that shows McDonald being shot repeatedly by Officer Jason Van Dyke was released Tuesday, the same day Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder. He's been ordered held without bond.
In recent days, there has been talk that marchers taking part in the Black Friday protest would engage in acts of civil disobedience, such as blocking store entrances to prevent shoppers from getting inside. On Thursday, one of the march's leaders, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said no such acts were planned, but they could happen.
"Some people may do that, I don't know," Jackson said.
Jessie Davis, of the group Stop Mass Incarceration Network, said there have been calls on social media for people to engage in civil disobedience, and Charlene Carruthers, national director of the activist group Black Youth Project 100, would not rule out acts such actions.
Pfleger said he thinks the march itself will cost businesses money because the publicity surrounding it will discourage shoppers from even venturing into the area.
It wasn't immediately clear how many people would turn out. But there were indications that it would be a bigger crowd than the other marches and rallies, which so far have attracted anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred demonstrators.
"I expect this will be bigger than the others. Maybe the number (of marchers) will be in the thousands," Davis said.
All previous marches have been largely peaceful. There have been isolated clashes between police and protesters, with about 10 arrests and only a few minor reports of property damage. The police have allowed protesters to march in the middle of the street and even hold rallies in the middle of intersections, and on Thursday the department said it would handle Friday's march much the same way.
Throughout the week, protesters have expressed anger over the video of the shooting. They've also harshly criticized the department for its months-long effort to prevent the video from being released and the state's attorney's office for taking more than a year to file charges against the officer, despite having footage of the incident.
Van Dyke's attorney has said the officer feared for his life when he fired at McDonald and that the case should be tried in the courtroom, not in social media or on city streets.
Van Dyke and other officers were responding to a report of a teen with a knife who had been breaking into cars on the night McDonald was shot.
The video released Tuesday shows McDonald jogging down a street and then veering away from Van Dyke and another officer who emerge from a police SUV drawing their guns. Within seconds, Van Dyke begins firing. McDonald spins around and falls to the pavement as Van Dyke keeps shooting.