DOWNTOWN — Hundreds of activists called for an end to police brutality Saturday during a protest that started at the Taste of Chicago and continued along Michigan Avenue.
The activists, who saw more people join their ranks throughout the day, blocked off intersections within the Taste of Chicago, which brings in more than 1 million people every year. They later brought traffic to a halt along Michigan Avenue.
The protests are in response to the fatal police shootings this week of black men Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in suburban Minneapolis. The deaths led to protests across the country, including two in Chicago Thursday. There was also a "die-in" Friday near President Obama's Hyde Park home and another protest in Dallas that ended in tragedy, with five police officers ambushed and shot dead.
Organizer Ja'Mal Green, an activist who led protests following last year's release of video showing the death of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald, called for an end to police brutality and also urged attendees to vote out Rahm Emanuel during the next mayoral election. But the protest also showed solidarity and love among people, he said.
The activists entered the Taste after being told by police to leave their posters and megaphones outside. There, children attending the food festival sometimes joined in chants while others moved to the side to let the activists march.
"No justice, no peace!" activists chanted. They locked arms to form long lines and cut off streets at times, part of their efforts to "shut down" the Taste.
People broke from the line to lie down on the street as part of a die-in. They were joined by children, including two young boys who led chants and several toddlers who laid alongside parents.
Afterward, the group left the Taste and began to march along Michigan Avenue. Some broke off into a group that protested at Millennium Park while a large group shut down traffic in the northbound lanes of Michigan Avenue by marching in the street. That group later rejoined the protest along Michigan Avenue.
"They shot him in front of his 4-year-old!" A group of women cried to passersby, referring to Castile, who was killed in front of his daughter.
The group swelled as some people left the sidewalk to join the march. The activists stopped several times to chant, sit down to block the street or lock arms in solidarity.
But there were also tussles with police. At least two people were temporarily detained, and activists cried out when officers used bikes or batons to push them onto sidewalks and out of the street.
Green said the protest precedes a 30-day campaign that encourages black people to buy from black-owned businesses to show their power and support for other people of color. The campaign will start Monday and last until Aug. 11.
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