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Paul O'Neal Protests: Activists 'Shut Down' CPD Headquarters, Streets

By  Ed Komenda Evan F.  Moore and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | August 5, 2016 10:53pm | Updated on August 6, 2016 12:29am

 Following the release of body cam footage showing the shooting death of Paul O'Neal, activists protested outside Chicago Police Headquarters.
Paul O'Neal Protests
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CHICAGO — Two separate groups led protests Friday night after multiple videos showing parts of the Chicago Police shooting of a unarmed teen at the end of a car chase were publicly released Friday.

Earlier in the day, activist Ja'mal Green, speaking on behalf of Paul O'Neal's family Friday, warned that protests or other forms of action could follow the videos' release.

"I think that the people have a right to use their freedom of speech," he said, adding that he wouldn't be surprised "if people decide to go to the streets with this so they can let their voices heard and put pressure on IPRA and CPD."

"It's Chicago," he said. "People love to let their voices heard. And I believe they should in this case."

At a press conference preceding the release of the police body camera and dashcam footage, Michael Oppenheimer, the attorney for the O'Neal family, said that they hoped the video's release would not be spur violent protests. 

"The family absolutely does not want anybody to be hurt or killed," Oppenheimer said.

Activists announced plans to "shut down" police headquarters Friday afternoon after interrupting a press conference by Police Supt. Eddie Johnson

During a scheduled press conference outside of Police Headquarters at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue, protesters physically blocked Johnson's mic stand, calling police action "reckless" and urging people to "remember [Paul O'Neal's] name."

At 8:30 p.m. outside police headquarters, teen activist Lamon Reccord stepped in front of news station microphones and demanded justice for Paul O'Neal and black youth all over the city. 

"It is time to abolish the police successfully and peacefully," Reccord said. "We do not need officers policing our communities. It is time to disarm, defund and abolish the police department. Do y'all hear me? ... We need to come up with community solutions on how to police our own communities."

The protest inched toward the front doors of headquarters, where Reccord and others got on their backs and posed as a dead black youths.

They chanted, "CPD! KKK! How many Pauls will you kill today?"

Around 9 p.m., Chicago Police officers barricaded the front doors and windows with bicycles and stood face-to-face with angry protesters — a scene similar to Downtown protests that happened after Chicago Police released footage of the Laquan McDonald shooting.

The protest did not sit well with everyone in attendance.

After reading about the event on social media, Valencia Hubbard drove to Chicago from Lynwood, Illinois to take part. She did not like what she found.

"When I saw that the only thing that was happening was screaming in officer's faces, that to me didn't live up to what I think of as protesting, like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X," said Hubbard, 41. "That demeans who they were."

Cedric May, a 44-year-old ex-convict who got out of jail three years ago, strolled to the protest from his mother's house a few blocks away and disagreed with Hubbard.

He said he feels for young black men dealing with cops on the streets today.

"They're protesting against the operation," May said. "All officers can't be Barney Fife. Barney Fife was the one with the gun, nervous and shooting anybody, and that's what they're using: 'Oh I was scared for my life.' No, you can't use that, man."

Near the site of the Paul O'Neal shooting, friends and protesters gathered and marched through the neighborhood as well Friday night. 

A woman nicknamed "Promo Queen," who did not want to give her real name due to fear of retaliation, is a friend of O'Neal's. She told DNAinfo that people are focusing more on the stolen car than the way that her friend was killed.

"Since we've been out here, an unmarked police car drove past, threw up their middle finger and laughed at us. They've been bothering us all day," Promo Queen said. "I understand that he was in the wrong but his life didn't have to be taken that way. We saw the backyard. He had nowhere to go. They didn't have to shoot him."

Before the vigil, Kate Miller, who lives next door to the home where O'Neal jumped over the gate in the released video, said she heard the gunshots with her daughter and partner.

"As neighbors, we think it is unnecessary that this young man died. Car chases are dangerous in a residential neighborhood," Miller said. "We wanted to pay our respect to Paul's family because this is an awful thing that happened. As a white person living in a mostly African-American neighborhood, this reinforces how young African-American people are targeted."

Paul O'Neal was killed in the backyard of this home in the 7300 block of South Merrill Avenue in South Shore. [DNAinfo/Evan F. Moore]

Shamare Parker, who had known O'Neal since eighth grade, was initially told that his friend died in a car accident. He echoes Promo Queen's sentiments about too much of a focus on the stolen car.

"My brother lost his life. Our perspective is different because we knew him," Parker said. "They are outsiders looking in on a situation by stereotyping it. They think it's just another story. They think it's just another minority doing things he wasn't supposed to do. He shouldn't have lost his life."

Things were tense during part of the march, as some protesters surrounded a police SUV, van, and CTA bus and began to beat on the windows. Parker, who lead the Friday protest, pleaded with the protesters to stop.

Many of the protesters, some of who came from an earlier protest at police headquarters, began to block the intersection of 73rd Street and Jeffery Avenue by laying on the ground. 

The protesters eventually headed north on Jeffery Ave. towards 71st Street.

[DNAinfo/Evan F. Moore]

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