The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Train Takeover by Activists, Artists is New Take on Recent Protests

By Mina Bloom | December 19, 2014 4:06pm | Updated on December 22, 2014 8:54am
  More than 100 artists boarded CTA trains and performed as a protest.
CTA Protest
View Full Caption

THE LOOP — Just before rush hour Friday, demonstrators gathered at the State and Lake Red Line platform, and, not unlike other recent protests against police brutality, they held signs displaying the slogan "Black Lives Matter."

But this time most of the protestors also brought instruments, ranging from guitars and bongos to a banjolele (a cross between a banjo and a ukulele) and their singing voices.

Dubbed a #TrainTakeover, Friday's protest was held exclusively on inbound and southbound Red Line train cars where more than 100 artists put on performances for commuters, ranging in style from spoken word poetry and theater to blue grass and rhythm and blues music.

"Other protests have not utilized performances, but a lot of the [protesters] are creative. There's power to be found in creativity in numbers," said Buster Fraum, a 21-year-old DePaul University student who came out to show support.

The protest started at 4 p.m. when the performers broke off into small groups and took their respective stages within each train car.

A group of protesters performing blue grass tunes—with lyrics like "whose side are you on?"— on a train car traveling southbound inspired many riders to whip out their phones and take video footage.

Some, like commuter Shakila Tate, 22, offered the group money, but they refused to accept cash, saying "that's not why we're here."

A few minutes later and in a different car, Ayinde Cartman, who is a regular performer at Soul Speak Open Mic and Young Chicago Authors, among other places, put on a passionate spoken word performance in another car.

The 25-year-old told DNAinfo Chicago that he considered the art secondary to the activism it represents.

In between musical numbers and spoken word performances, protestors chanted "you ask why we gather? Black lives matter" and "Mike Brown means we got to fight back."

One protestor, Jasmine Quintana, 29, brought a sign showing the years in which other countries have gotten rid of grand juries. 

"This is where it starts," said Quintana, a dancer who lives in Maywood, adding that grand juries are an "outdated" practice.

While some commuters ditched train cars immediately upon realizing there were protestors performing on them, others showed solidarity by offering money or chanting along with them.

"The goal is to creatively and peacefully engage train riders who may otherwise be distracted or checked out, particularly as many move onto their holiday break," said protest organizer Kristen Kaza in a release.

Described as a "creative counterpart" to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Friday's action, dubbed #TrainTakeover, used the CTA system to reach people who live in many parts of the city, the release said.

It was organized by a small group of people, including musicians and playwrights, who asked performers to be both peaceful and respectful of train riders, who can join the dialog by using the hashtag #TrainTakeover.

Friday's protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations across the city against the deaths of young black men in police-involved incidents.

Grand juries decided not to indict police in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City. Also in New York City, a police officer shot and killed Akai Gurley in an apartment building stairwell last month.

And in Cleveland, police fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice after the boy waved a realistic BB gun in a park in November.

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: