CHICAGO (Reuters) - 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 demonstration was peaceful, but after the main march concluded, police scuffled with a few dozen protesters who were trying to block the entrance to an H&M store and to obstruct traffic both ways on Michigan Avenue, a major thoroughfare.
During the march, 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, protesters were arrested in Black Lives Matter demonstrations blocking roadways and highways near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
Also, on Thursday dozens of protesters marched into San Francisco’s City Hall over the police killing of a black man earlier this month, demanding the firing of the city’s police chief.
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 mostly took in their stride Thursday’s protest, which was not as big as a 2,000-person march on “Black Friday” Nov. 27, which blocked traffic into several Michigan Avenue stores.
“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.
More than 70 percent of the 375 people shot by police in Chicago from 2007-2014 were black. The city’s population is about one-third African American.
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.
Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Alistair Bell