BRONZEVILLE — More than 100 activists marched Saturday from Bridgeport to Downtown Chicago to "shut down" McCormick Place, where thousands of police officers are gathered for a conference this weekend.
The activists, who represented a bevy of civil rights causes, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement, rallied at Chicago Police Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave. They gathered in opposition to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which is meeting Saturday through Tuesday at McCormick Place.
"Our basic human rights are being violated every day by the police. Black men and women are being harassed, assaulted and even murdered by police. And as the heads of police departments I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the IACP," said Sade Richmond, leader for Workers Center for Racial Justice, in a statement released before the march, along with a list of demands for the IACP.
The protest began at police HQ, where activists talked about how people of color have been abused by police, with Jon Burge torture victim Mark Clements discussing the pain inflicted on him and others. Clements said victims of Burge are still in prison and called for them to be freed.
Other speakers called for the firing of Officer Dante Servin, who shot and killed unarmed black woman Rekia Boyd in 2012. A police conduct board has recommended Servin be fired, but he has yet to be dismissed and the process to fire him could take several months.
Activists then marched from headquarters to McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive. Protesters had lain down around the roads surrounding McCormick Place, locking and chaining themselves so they could not be moved. They laid down alongside mock coffins that bore the names of people killed by police, including Boyd.
They had, one speaker said, shut down McCormick Place.
A 7-year-old girl carried a sign that read "Ferguson is everywhere" during the march. She joined in chanting and raising her fist in solidarity several times. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Thousands of officers are attending the Downtown police conference. It was those officers who protesters were trying to reach, as they believe their movement is not linked to Chicago but to every city, they said. A 7-year-old girl carried a sign that read "Ferguson is everywhere," and activists cited racial injustice in Detroit, Baltimore and other major cities.
Dorothy Holmes was among the activists, marching and carrying a sign. Holmes said her son, Ronald "Ronnie" Johnson, was shot and killed by a Chicago officer in 2014. Police have said Johnson pointed a gun at an officer, but Holmes, who said she has seen video footage of the incident, said that is a "lie."
Holmes attended the march, she said, to "let these police officers know that they can't keep killing our kids, getting away with it." Holmes has met several families who have "lost their kids to the same thing," she said.
"We're not going nowhere. We're going to fight back," Holmes said. "We have to fight back to get justice. We're going to fight back until we get it."
Justice starts with removing "crooked police" and leaders like Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, Holmes said.
Demont Deener, of Auburn Gresham, addressed police after the marchers arrived at McCormick Place. "What are you afraid of?" he asked them. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Demont Deener, who is with the Workers Center for Racial Justice and lives in Auburn Gresham, said he attended the march because people of color cannot walk down the street without being "picked on." He said he has been harassed by police who have stopped him on his bike to ask him where he's going and what he's doing, and he was once pulled over be an officer who said he was looking for a murderer.
"We want justice or there will be no peace," Deener told DNAinfo Chicago, echoing the marchers' chants of, "No justice, no peace."
Deener also addressed officers, using a microphone to speak to them outside McCormick Place. A band of yellow crime tape stood between Deener and police, who had told the activists they could not pass the tape.
"What are you afraid of? We're not terrorists," he said. "We want change."
That change needs to come from police, who must start it by stopping profiling in black neighborhoods, Deener said. He told DNAinfo Chicago he thinks police are afraid of people of color "simply because of the color of our skin. They understand our strength and they understand our power. They see how we can unite just as well as they can, and that scares them."
In a news release Sunday morning, activists said 66 people had been arrested during the protests. Chicago Police confirmed that 19 men and 47 women were arrested on misdemeanor charges for obstruction of traffic.
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