Chicago reacts to Ferguson grand jury decision

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Protesters along Wacker near Michigan Ave. Photo credit: David Harpe
Protesters along Wacker near Michigan Ave. Photo credit: David Harpe

By Jeremy Gorner and Peter Nickeas, Chicago Tribune

Activists who had gathered at Chicago public safety headquarters Monday evening to await a grand jury’s decision in the death of Michael Brown, marched downtown after a miles-long trek via Lake Shore Drive.

Several hundred people marched up King Drive, reaching Lake Shore about 8:50 p.m., chanting as they went north on the southbound drive. About an hour later, they reached downtown, and while they paused briefly at the Thompson Center around 10 p.m., they continued moving through downtown late into the evening.

“Whose streets? Our streets,” the group shouted outside police headquarters at the start of the protest, and then again when they reached the Thompson Center.

“We want freedom, freedom! All these dirty racist cops! We don’t need ’em, need ’em! Back up, back up!” they chanted.

Data pix.

Officers appeared to be following strategies for containing the protesters that the Chicago Police Department perfected during the NATO Summit of 2012, especially when the marchers reached downtown and tried to cross the Chicago River north on bridges heading east from Wells Street. By about 11 p.m., the bulk of the protesters were stopped by mounted police at Michigan Avenue, while a smaller group headed south on Michigan.

“We're not going to turn the protest into anything other than a protest,” Police Chief Garry McCarthy said Monday night in a televised interview on WLS-TV just after 10 p.m., adding that there had not yet been any arrests or reports of property damage.

On Lake Shore, police closed down traffic on the drive as officers on bicycles rode along with the demonstrators. During the trek north, a few people stopped their cars and got out, cheering on the demonstrators.

About 9:30 p.m., police on horseback wearing riot helmets lined up on Lake Shore near Roosevelt Road, forcing demonstrators to head north on Columbus Drive as the smell of horse manure wafted through the air. Lake Shore was reopened about 9:40 p.m., and police and protesters came to a stop at Balbo Drive and Wabash Avenue.

Some protesters were chased by police after crossing through a line of officers at Wabash.

"How can you be a part of this?" one protester shouted in the face of a bike cop.

The barricade then dissolved, and the crowd moved north up Wabash from Balbo.

"We all stand together! "We all stand together!" the crowd chanted, the sound of an "L" train in the background.

By about 10 p.m., the crowd was heading north on Dearborn near Daley Plaza, with police lining the route to keep demonstrators from heading east or west. About 10 p.m., McCarthy was seen near the head of the group, and about 10:15 p.m., the group stopped at the Thompson Center Plaza.

During the march on Lake Shore, the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, which usually sends out alert messages mostly about weather and scheduled events, sent out alerts that Lake Shore was shut down.

Earlier, more than 200 people congregated outside police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., by a little after 7 p.m., not long after a short protest took place in the Loop on Monday evening. Organizers originally had billed the protest as being held in reaction to the grand jury's decision, but the results of the prbe were not to be released until about 8 p.m.

During the protest, the crowd erupted in loud chants of "We are Mike Brown!" and "I am Mike Brown!"

Some outside the headquarters held signs with slogans including “Won’t stop ‘til we get justice,” “Killer pigs must pay,” and “Stop the racist killer cops.”

Chicago police officers, some carrying wooden batons, closed down Michigan Avenue near 35th Street.

Most in the crowd wore thick jackets, hats and scarves to ward off the cold. A few wore bandannas over their faces and one wore a Guy Fawkes mask, often used by protesters associated with the hacker movement Anonymous.

The crowd continued on with chants such as "Hands up! Don't shoot!"

One car rode down South Michigan Avenue as its occupants cheered and shouted "Mike Brown!" out of the window. Another motorist honked his horn repeatedly as he drove past the crowd.

Among the protesters was Leroy Watson, who compared the shooting of Michael Brown to how suspects were tortured into confessing to murders by disgraced former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. A protester representing the Socialist Workers Party, Watson says he's had friends who have experienced police brutality.

"There could have been another alternative ... without having to shoot someone," Watson said of the Brown shooting.

Another protester, Grant Newburger, said he was in Ferguson for demonstrations in August. He and other Brown supporters descended on police headquarters to reiterate their support for the teen.

"If they do not indict, then what kind of country are we living on where the lives of black youth don't count for anything whatsoever," he said, before the grand jury's decision was announced. "Everyone, these are all of our kids. I don't care if you're white, or black or Latino or green, these are your kids. And you should not be willing to live in a country where they don't value the lives of black children."

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