Chicago activists shut down Dan Ryan Expressway during police brutality protest


Protest organizers Imani, left, and Kristen gave safety instructions before the march, showing how to lock arms so that the police could not easily break the group apart. - SUNSHINE TUCKER
  • Sunshine Tucker
  • Protest organizers Imani, left, and Kristen gave safety instructions before the march, showing how to lock arms so that the police could not easily break the group apart.

Approximately 400 people gathered outside the Chicago Police Department Thursday night in a Black Lives Matter march and demonstration around Fuller Park, honoring Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and condemning police brutality.

Imani and Kristen, two 22-year-old University of Missouri students home for summer, organized and promoted the event on social media with the hashtag #ChiCallToAction. (They declined to give their last names.)

Dark clouds gathered and raindrops began to fall as Kristen raised her 
loudspeaker to the sky at precisely 6:06 PM. 

"We are here to get a statement of solidarity with us, so that other police 
departments know that their colleagues and their actions aren't appropriate and will not be accepted or tolerated," Kristen said. "We will be marching, rain or sun," Imani followed. "I'm sorry if you all get wet, but we are out here for the movement; it's not gonna stop." 

Alton Sterling, 37, was fatally shot during an encounter with two police officers Tuesday morning in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Less than 48 hours later, 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot four times by a police officer who pulled him over for a busted taillight in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Both men were African-American—something they had in common with growing list of men and women shot and killed by police in cities across the nation, including Laquan McDonald, Ronnie Johnson, and Rekia Boyd, all fatally shot by Chicago police.

Still, a woman at the protest, who identified herself only as Maria, said she hoped this protest would go beyond African-Americans and accomplish unity on a larger scale.

"We have people from all sides of it," she said. "Not just black people being upset about black people being killed, but everyone—from every ethnic diversity."

As the march commenced, protesters began to chant in unison: "It is our duty to fight for our freedom; it is our duty to win; we must love and support each other; we have nothing to lose but our chains."

A single voice pierced through the chants booming down Wentworth Avenue, addressing the Chicago police: "Murderers! You murderers! You will pay… God will judge you!"

Peggy Hudgens, 55, says she's been involved in black activism for 30 years. Affiliated with Black Men United, Hudgens expressed her hatred for the system. Though she was not previously acquainted with the march's organizers, she said she exchanged phone numbers with them.

"I am affiliated with anyone interested in fighting for justice and peace," Hudgens said. "I will be involved moving forward."

The protesters marched until they reached the Dan Ryan Expressway, where they momentarily blocked the southbound lanes at Exit 57. Law enforcement officers were present, but did not act. Around 7 PM, Imani urged everyone to retrace their steps and return to the police station, leading hundreds of protesters back to 51st and Wentworth.

Sun beams began to shine from behind the clouds as people chanted, "We're gonna be alright."

Upon arriving at the station, protesters formed a giant circle, linking their arms in a fashion Imani described as "locking up" at the beginning of the march.

"[The police] can't break you if you're locked up—that's for the safety of everybody out here," Imani said.

Kristen stood at the center of the circle and raised her loudspeaker once more.

"There is no reason why there should be two men, within 48 hours—dead, laying on the ground—and nobody has said anything about it; it is unacceptable that every police station in this nation is silent about what has happened!" she yelled. "I don't know if y'all feel it, but there's a revolution among us. And I may sound crazy to some people, but there's a revolution among us."

As the protest came to an official close at 7:50 PM, Lamon Reccord—famed for staring down police officers in complete silence during December 2015 protests for Laquan McDonald—announced another event to be held on Michigan and Wacker at the end of the month.

"I'm calling all African-Americans: I don't care what community you're in, I don't care where else you come from," Reccord boomed through a loudspeaker. "On July 30, we are doing an economic boycott at 12 o' clock… 40 percent of the city's operation budget goes to CPD, so when we spend our money and we get our taxes, them taxes go to their asses. We are demanding that money gets funded back into our community. We don't want nobody spending any money on the Mag Mile that
day. We need money back into our community." (The Chicago Police Department declined to comment.)

Kristen smiled, noting a rainbow in the sky. "I think this was a great turnout, more than we ever expected," she said. "And I think my people got a lot out that we've been struggling with. This is a start."

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