Protesters against police violence hit Chicago shopping district

Protesters Marched in Chicago Against Police Killings of Black Men
Protesters Marched in Chicago Against Police Killings of Black Men

Several hundred protesters against police killings of black men marched on Thursday along Chicago's Michigan Avenue, calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step down and aiming to disrupt Christmas Eve shopping in a glittering, upscale commercial area.

The march, which began at midday, was peaceful and police blocked traffic for the demonstration as protesters stopped and lay down in the street every block or so. Shoppers and passers-by took the protest in stride, and stopped to take photos.

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Demonstrators chanted "Sixteen shots and a cover-up," protesting the year-long delay in bringing murder charges against police officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot and killed Laquan McDonald in October 2014 as the black teenager walked away from police, according to footage of the incident.

"Rahm is arrogant enough to not resign. So we're going to continue to put pressure on the business community and allow them to force him to resign," said protester Brother Hall, 64, of the Chicago neighborhood of Bronzeville.

Police killings, especially of black people, have sparked protests in some U.S. cities over the last year and a half. Black Lives Matter, a loosely organized movement involved in many protests over race and policing issues, is calling holiday demonstrations "Black Christmas."

On Wednesday, Black Lives Matter demonstrators blocked roadways to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and blocked southbound traffic on the 101 freeway near the San Francisco International Airport. Some protesters were arrested.

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Chicago has seen a steady stream of protests since late November, when the city released the video of Van Dyke, who is white, shooting McDonald, aged 17.

Van Dyke, 37, has been charged with murder and is out on bail pending formal arraignment Dec. 29.

Shoppers and tourists took Thursday's protest in their stride.

"I think it's a good reminder, especially on Christmas Eve, that it's not all about gifts and the commercialization of Christmas," said Barbara Hutchinson, 64, from St. Louis.

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Police frequently use lethal force in Chicago, killing an average of 17 people a year over the past seven years. More than 70 percent of people shot by police in Chicago from 2007-2014 were black. The city's population is about one-third African American. Van Dyke is the first officer charged with a crime in an on-duty death in 30 years.

Emanuel, on holiday in Cuba, has said he will not step down, but he did bow to protesters and fired police chief Garry McCarthy and agreed to a review of police practices by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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