Friday, November 27, 2015

Chicago protest #LaquanMcDonald

I'm too middle-aged to last long in drizzly, chilly weather, but I spent almost two hours today with protesters who are furious with the way Chicago handled (covered up) the murder of a Black 17-year-old teenager by white Officer Jason Van Dyke. I'm no reporter and certainly no photographer, but here are some of my impressions.

The march started at 11:00 a.m. at the corner of Michigan and Wacker. We headed north towards Water Tower Place and I joined in such chants as:

Sixteen shots

Recall Rahm

Show me what democracy looks like

This is what democracy looks like

Hey hey ho ho

All three of them have got to go
(Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Police Superindendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez)

Whose streets?

Our streets!

In between chanting, I overheard white marchers discussing the situation in Chicago. I'm not sure what came before this statement, but I heard a woman say, "If you think I'm white trash, you've got another think coming. I know how to read and I have some teeth." The term white trash always upsets me. Why would we ever call another human being trash? It disappointed me that this woman didn't object to the term white trash, but wanted to distinguish herself from it, as if we all know there really are people who are trash.

When the marchers reached the water tower around noon, we held a rally. We shivered in drizzle that turned into real rain as we chanted and listened to speeches. I shared my umbrella with a Black man named Greg. He had shown up that morning to work at Quartino restaurant at State and Ontario, been told they didn't need him today, and joined the march. When the rally ended, several people sang a chorus of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and then the marchers headed back the way we had come.

Walking south to the Wrigley Building, some protestors stopped and blocked the entrances to stores, such as the Apple Store and Cole Haan. Others of us kept walking and chanting.

Demonstrators blocking entrance to The Apple Store.
In the photo above, you can see that the bus shelter shows what time the next 147 and 151 buses will arrive. I wondered how long those marquees would keep lying. No buses would travel along those blocks for hours. Later I saw that the northbound 147 bus was rerouted at Randolph to take Clark Street.

The Cole Haan store was also blocked.
From the beginning we had many rubberneckers taking photos and video of us. Many were shoppers and people eating at nearby restaurants. The ones who happened to be on the second floor stared down at us, like the lunchers in the Grand Lux Cafe. 

You can't see them well, but the intrigued white people are in there.

Michigan Avenue stayed clear of traffic, in an area that would usually be packed with cars, taxis and people at 12:30 p.m. on a Black Friday.

Looking north from Michigan and Erie

But the Christmas decorations were still lovely.

Decorations looked absurd against the reality of anger.

When we got to the Wrigley Building, we had another rally, which I was able to hear much better, maybe because I was closer to the person with the megaphone. My favorite sign was held by a young Black woman. It said, "I'm so mad I made this sign. Then I applied to law school." And there was a dog.

My completely biased, unreliable observation was that there were mostly Black people marching, but also a lot of white people. What I didn't see were many Latino protestors, but I admit that any of the people who looked African or Caucasian could also have been Latino. So I'll say it this way: most Latinos in the Chicagoland area are Mexican and most Mexicans have brown skin, or coffee-with-cream-colored skin like mine, and I didn't see a lot of coffee-with-cream-colored people out there today. Considering the Mexican and Mexican-American population of Chicago, I was a little surprised that the coffee-with-creams were so much in the minority. I don't know why that was.

I stayed as long as my bladder held out, then headed south towards the Macy's bathroom (I still use Macy's as a bathroom stop, but that's all they'll get from me). At the corner of Michigan and Wacker I overheard a white woman explaining the protests to her young white daughter, "They're complaining about things that are happening in Chicago." I wondered if her explanation got any more specific after I was out of earshot.

I stopped briefly in a hotel lobby and saw that they had CNN on the bar TV. The Chicago protests were on, and I saw Don Lemon reporting. Why the hell do they send Don Lemon to these things? The bar neither had the sound up nor the closed captioning turned on, and I had no interest in staring at Lemon's voiceless face, so I left. By the time I got home an hour later, the Colorado Springs shooter topped the news because everything sucks.

The Chicago police, the local justice system and Mayor Emmanuel have so much to answer for: video tape suppressed or erased, 13 months of no charges against a cop who murdered a 17-year-old, desk duty for that same cop who had years of complaints against him and who shouldn't have been on the street in the first place. And all this stayed out of the news during an election year when Emmanuel had trouble holding on to his seat. There has to be accountability. There has to be change.

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