CHICAGO - Marchers protesting the killing of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer took over North Michigan Avenue on Friday morning at the height of post-Thanksgiving shopping in Chicago's most famous retail district, blocking traffic and causing some stores to lock their doors in the biggest public display since the video of the incident was made public this week.
More than 1,000 people took part in the march, and it saw some of the highest-profile protesters so far. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, former mayoral candidate and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, and U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis walked with the throng, which pushed off from just north of the Chicago River and parked itself in the street in front of the iconic Water Tower about a mile north.
Police shut down northbound Michigan Avenue at the river, and the protesters were marching in the street. Protesters also spilled over onto southbound Michigan Avenue, and traffic was eventually stopped in that direction north of the river as well.
The front end of the march arrived at Water Tower Place around 11:30 a.m., about 30 minutes after the group took to the street.
There was an element of the surreal throughout the day. Milling tourists posed for selfies in the middle of Michigan Avenue, which was shut down to vehicles for hours. And people continued making purchases on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, in some cases finding alternate entrances or pushing their way through protesters attempting to stop them. After being closed for a time during the protest, the Gap reopened and a DJ led shoppers in the "Cha-Cha Slide" as the chanting for justice for McDonald continued outside.
"We want to show them how it's done in Chicago," one speaker shouted into a megaphone. "Let them just feel the empty cash registers," the speaker shouted. Marchers tried to get into the mall as police blocked the entrance. Protesters also blocked the entrances to some stores while chanting "16 shots," referring to the number of times McDonald was shot. Some stores locked their doors as the march went past.
"People listen to economics," said protester Chris Lewis as he blocked the door to the Ralph Lauren store.
The video has drawn nationwide attention to the October 2014 death of McDonald, 17, and Friday's march on a cold, wet morning is the most prominent display by those critical of the incident and the city's response.
Marchers carried signs calling for justice for McDonald and for the creation of a community police accountability council. They chanted "justice now" and "If we don't get it, shut it down."
Johnny Reed, 24, a Chicago native now living in Washington, said he was back in town for the holidays and "supporting home." He noted there was a lot of energy in the aftermath of the video's release but wondered whether protesters would be able to maintain their momentum.
"I see a lot of activity," he said. "But I'm not sure of the strategy and the actions that we're actually trying to yield here.
"Because ultimately we try to do actions to get a reaction, and so tomorrow and the days following, I'm curious to know what the reaction from our targets is actually going to be.
"In due time," Reed said, "We'll see."
Carolyn Johnson, 53, of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, said she came downtown to press for the firings of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez because it took so long for charges to be brought against Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald.
"This is what they need to do: Clear the air, make it clean. Don't go halfway, go all the way," Johnson said.
Dozens of Chicago police officers lined the marchers' route in front of the high-end stores.
The protests have been largely peaceful. Police announced a handful of arrests during downtown marches south of the Chicago River in the days after the release of the video.
Critics of the city's handling of the investigation into the shooting have asked why it took Mayor Rahm Emanuel so long to release the video, and why he only did so following a judge's order that the mayor's administration spent months fighting. And they have asked why Van Dyke continued to collect a paycheck for more than a year after he shot McDonald 16 times.
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder this week. The charges came just hours before the court-ordered release of the dashboard camera video that shows the officer shooting McDonald, who had PCP in his system at the time of his death.