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Hundreds Block Downtown Streets To Protest Police Killing Of Paul O'Neal

By Alex Nitkin | August 7, 2016 6:27pm | Updated on August 7, 2016 11:29pm
 Black Lives Matter protesters took to Millennium Park Sunday to protest Paul O'Neal's shooting.
Black Lives Matter Sunday protest
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DOWNTOWN — Hundreds of protesters marched through Downtown after a rally at Millennium Park Sunday, demanding justice for the killing of Paul O'Neal by Chicago Police. 

The 18-year-old was shot and killed by police on July 28 near 74th Street and Merrill Avenue after a stolen Jaguar he was in smashed into a squad car and O'Neal ran off into the neighborhood.

Videos of police officers shooting at O'Neal as he sped past them and then after he was shot and was being arrested were released Friday, causing a slew of criticism from O'Neal's family and activists accusing the police of murdering O'Neal.

Sunday's march was organized by BLM Chi Youth, an offshoot of Black Lives Matter formed by four 16-and-17-year-old high school students.

The group had launched a similar protest on July 12, when more than 1,000 protesters sat at the intersection of State Street and Lake Avenue.

When O'Neal was shot, organizer Sophia Byrd said, the group "decided it was time to do it again."

"People are angry, and they're hurt," she said. "We need to show people that this is happening in our city. That we want justice for Paul O'Neal."


At the rally Sunday, organizer Eva Lewis described the videos of the shooting in detail, including when an officer lamented that he might be stuck on 30 days of desk duty following the shooting — which is police policy for any officer involved in a shooting — while O'Neal "bled to death in handcuffs."

But she promised a more orderly protest.

"We're not going to get arrested today," she said. "We're not gonna touch people! We're not gonna yell at police!" she said.

The group had conferred with police beforehand, Lewis said, they let them know ahead of time where they'd be marching so officers could block off the streets in front of them. 

The protesters left Millennium Park and headed down Michigan Avenue and eventually State Street, where they stopped and State and Lake and blocked traffic.

"No justice, no peace!" they screamed. During the course of the march they shouted the names of more than a dozen people killed by police or in police custody, including Sandra Bland, Ronald Johnson, Cedrick Chatman and Rekia Boyd

The chants were a scattershot of names and political messages, at one point calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.

They marched up the Michigan Avenue bridge, singing "We shall overcome," hiking up the Magnificent Mile to Chicago Avenue, where they looped back down State Street.

The crowd walked on Wacker Drive past Trump Tower, where they raised middle fingers and chanted "America was never great!"

The protest attracted media from all over the world, including news crews from China and Italy.

They also chanted "body cam coverup" in reference to the fact that the camera of the officer who shot O'Neal was not turned on.

A tense scene occurred in the middle of the march, when activist Lamon Reccord stared down a Chicago Police officer, taunting him alongside a small crowd that gathered behind him. The 16-year-old Reccord's previous staredowns of police officers have gotten national attention.

"You didn't respect my brother when y'all shot him in the back," Reccord said Sunday. "He's gone, you know that? He's never coming back."

But when the back-and-forth started to draw attention, Lewis called on the crowd to drown it out with chants and singing.

All throughout the protest, when someone taunted an officer or shouted "F--- the police," the organizers tried to subdue them.

"We said from the beginning, this isn't anti-police," Lewis said after the march. "We wanted this to be a peaceful environment, a safe space. The kind of event where people can feel like they can bring their kids."

After about three hours of marching, the crowd returned to its starting point in Millennium Park around 9 p.m. and dispersed. 

The organizers glowed in their achievement, grateful that despite the moments of tension, they had organized two consecutive marches with no arrests.

"We got a great crowd, and big and diverse crowd, and we were peaceful," said BLM Chi Youth organizer Natalie Braye, 17. "We're excited for the future. We're definitely not stopping."

In addition to Sunday's protest, the release of the videos Friday spurred two separate spontaneous protests: One at Chicago Police headquarters in Bronzeville, and another at the site of O'Neal's shooting in South Shore.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson stripped three officers involved of their powers after the shooting.

At a Friday press conference, O'Neal's sister Briana Adams said the teen had plans to attend a trade school and go to work for ComEd.


Meanwhile, Dean Angelo Sr., head of the local Fraternal Order of Police union, urged Chicagoans to avoid a "rush to judgment" based on the video evidence.

"Due to the fact that this chaotic incident occurred in a matter of moments, each individual perspective needs to be taken into consideration," Angelo said in a statement.

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