Chicago, IL – On Black Friday, Nov. 25, the busiest shopping day of the year, 500 people marched on the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s upscale retail district, calling for a boycott.
The two most popular chants summed up their message, “When I say fight back, you say CPAC!” and “What do we want? Justice! And if we don’t get it? Shut it down!”
CPAC: Community control of the police
CPAC stands for the elected, civilian police accountability council, legislation which was introduced into the Chicago City Council in June with the support of nine aldermen and the entire movement in the struggle against police crimes.
The demand for justice has always been raised by the oppressed Black, Chicano/Mexicano and Puerto Rican communities of Chicago, which live under the occupation of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The level of struggle reached a new high in the past year, since the video was released just before Thanksgiving last year showing the vicious murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by the racist cop, Jason Van Dyke.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel cried crocodile tears over the death of Laquan McDonald. He set up a task force to review the failures of the system of police accountability. That task force made almost 200 findings and recommendations. One of those findings is that racism in the CPD is systemic. Rahm then ignored those recommendations, and presented to the city council legislation for a Civilian Office of Police Ac-countability. COPA in essence is no different than its predecessor, IPRA (Independent Police Review Authority), which in seven years, reviewed 400 shootings of civilians by the cops and found only one of them unjustified.
The city council played their part as Rahm’s trusted partners, voting overwhelmingly to accept it. Only a small group of councilors led by Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa of the 35th Ward had the courage to take the side of the people, submitting CPAC as a bill in the council.
Protest expresses continued resistance to police crimes
The #BoycottBlackFriday protest was called by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repres-sion, with support from Black Lives Matter – Chicago; the Service Employees International Union/Health Care Illinois-Indiana; the Chicago Teachers Union; U.S. Palestinian Community Network; the patriotic Filipino youth group, AnakBayan; and Showing Up for Racial Justice.
The protest opened with a rally at the Old Water Tower monument. Speakers included Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, Jeffrey Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and Tiffaney Boxley, the mother of Joshua Beal, killed by the police in early November.
The protesters then marched south on the Mag Mile, stopping at stores on each block to chant and rally. After a few stores, people held hands and slowly picketed in a circle. As the crowd grew, people began to lock arms. Jeff Baker, one of the protest leaders from the Alliance, remarked, “People remember last year, when thousands of people shut down the stores on Black Friday to demand justice for Laquan. They came here today ready to lock arms and accomplish the same.”
Over the next three hours, the protest moved from store to store, shutting down Crate and Barrel, Nike, Apple, and Nieman Marcus. As they moved, the marchers also shut down multiple intersections.
The level of repression was much higher than a year ago. During the rally at Old Water Tower, several cops dressed in green army type uniforms walked through the middle of the crowd carrying sniper rifles. They entered the historic Water Tower, the only building that survived the Chicago Fire of 1871, and climbed to the top to be in the best position for shooting protesters if ordered to.
The police were quick to shove protesters and muscle the blockades away from the doors of the stores. People responded militantly, refusing to be intimidated by the cop’s brutality.
There were three young people arrested during the pickets at the stores. Diontre Lawrence was arrested at the blockade of Crate and Barrel. When he was released from jail that night, he reported having been tased. “The cops took me inside the store. They banged my head on the ground. I wasn’t resisting arrest. When one cop took his taser out of the holster, a woman working in the store said, ‘He is not resisting arrest.’ They used the taser anyway.”
Lawrence had a headache and pain throughout much of his body as a result of the tase.
Police and protest both send messages
Leading up to the protest and during the action, the #BoycottBlackFriday protest garnered major media coverage, both locally and nationally, including live coverage on MSNBC of the blockades.
No doubt the coverage in the press contributed to the police behavior. In turn, the brutality of the cops revealed that their bosses, including the mayor, were unhappy with the impact of the protest. It is common knowledge in Chicago that Emanuel wanted to get out from the shadow of Laquan McDonald. This is why he shoved his phony police accountability bill through the city council. Like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, the Black Friday boycott showed the mayor the inevitable dispensation of punishment.
In a statement to the press before the protest, Frank Chapman, Field Organizer for the Alliance, said, “This is in response to the hard-hearted refusal by Mayor Emanuel, the Chicago City Council and the powers that be in this city, to acknowledge and implement the people's demand for an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. We have called for a boycott of the Magnificent Mile on Black Friday because if we can have no justice, then the corporate power brokers and corrupt politicians will no longer be allowed to profit from our misery and oppression.”
“Boycott Black Friday must be a Day of Defiance. Where we say to the white racist, power structure of this city and nation ‘You cannot murder us, trample on our humanity, leave us emotionally traumatized and imprisoned in miserable social conditions and then expect our obedience. You can no longer have our obedience and we will defy you until we are free.’”