CHICAGO – Demonstrators angry about the killing of a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white police officer last year marched through the streets and disrupted Black Friday shopping in Chicago's ritziest retail district.
Despite a cold, drizzling rain, hundreds of demonstrators turned out to protest Friday, the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season along Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile.
Activists chanting "16 shots! 16 shots!" stopped traffic for blocks for up to an hour, expressing their anger over the Oct. 20, 2014, killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the subsequent investigation that they say was mishandled. Police officers along the sidewalk formed a barrier of sorts between the protesters and stores and helped shoppers get through the doors.
Facing a court-issued deadline, police on Tuesday released dashcam video of the teen's death, only hours after prosecutors charged the officer who repeatedly shot him, Jason Van Dyke, with first-degree murder.
Among the marchers was 73-year-old Frank Chapman of Chicago, who said the disturbing video confirms what activists have said for years about Chicago police brutality.
"That needs to end. Too many have already died," said Chapman, whose organization, the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression, is pushing for an elected, civilian police accountability council.
Van Dyke is being held without bond. His attorney said Van Dyke 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 the streets.
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.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and prominent local activist, said he thinks the march itself will cost businesses money because the publicity surrounding it will discourage shoppers from even venturing into the area.
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 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.