CHICAGO (NNPA) - It didn’t amass to a large citywide coalition as predicted, but hundreds of youth from Cabrini-Green did manage to stun downtown Chicago Aug. 17 and its financial district with a loud protest of the multiple shooting of a 14-year-old boy by police on Aug. 14.
Ellis Woodland Jr. was shot several times by Chicago police after allegedly refusing to drop a BB gun from his hands that police said looked like a real semi-automatic weapon.
About 350 people, mainly adolescents and teenagers, marched from the Cabrini-Green Housing Project down LaSalle Street to the doors of City Hall where they were met by approximately 50 Chicago police officers on foot, bicycles and four-wheel motor vehicles.
The marchers, led by Willie J.R. Fleming, chairman of the Hip-Hop Congress of Cabrini-Green, and Deidre Brewster, were met halfway inside the downtown Loop area by mayoral candidate William “Dock’’ Walls, Fred Hampton Jr. and Derrick Harris, head of the North Lawndale Accountability Commission, among others.
The situation became tense between protesters and policemen when the agitated crowd was initially denied entrance into City Hall to speak with Mayor Richard Daley. Mr. Fleming said witnesses to the incident were in the crowd and wanted to address the mayor directly.
“We are taxpaying citizens. We have a right to go in and address the mayor,” someone shouted out as a sea of blue and white police shirts blocked the entrance of the locked City Hall doors.
Initially, Chicago Police Assistant Deputy Supt. Charles Williams told the group that only 20 people could go up to the fifth floor and protest in front of the mayor’s office. An hour earlier, however, about 40 to 45 people protested on the fifth floor in front of the mayor’s office, demanding that he sign the Big Box Ordinance into law, which would require large retailers to pay its workers a living wage.
“The Chicago Police are violating our civil and human rights,” Mr. Fleming shouted over a bullhorn when the police refused to budge.
With that statement, the crowd started chanting, “No more Emmett Till…”
Lance Lewis, spokesman for the mayor, gradually raised the number of people who could come into the building to 30, then to 40, but the disgruntled crowd wasn’t having it.
“All or nothing,” someone shouted from the crowd.
“I cannot allow 300 people up to the fifth floor,” said a frustrated Mr. Lewis.
The protestors, joined by a core of young drummers, walked away from City Hall and began to march down LaSalle Street to the financial district.
Despite the high number of police out to control the protest crowd, no arrests were made.
“How many White children have been shot by Chicago police in the last 20 years,” Mr. Harris asked. “This has become a culture. This has become their “m.o.” This is their way of relating, and it clearly has become a problem with the African American community. I mean, it’s absolutely unconscionable.”
Mr. Walls contended that, under the Daley and Chicago Police Supt. Philip Cline’s watch that “they have gone from arresting (Black) men and torturing them to shooting them down in the street.”
After marching to the financial district and back to City Hall, the police finally let Mr. Mr. Ellis Jr.’s family members and protest leaders into City Hall, totaling about 30 people. There would be no meeting with Mayor Daley, however, as extra police covered the mayor’s office entrance and even refused to allow media to stand behind the ropes to face the protestors and film them as they did during the Big Box protest.
Angry protest leaders vowed to show up unannounced at City Hall and find a way to vote Daley out of office.
“We are going to continue to come back until justice is served,” Ms. Brewster said, “until they stop treating the victim like he is a criminal.”
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