“There’s no reason a mother should be burying her kid,” the mother of Marc Anthony Nevarez, who was killed by the police last October, shouted into the microphone. “Enough is enough! We need justice!” Her hands shook, her eyes glistened with tears. The anger and pain in her voice was palpable. She was still grieving.
Thousands took to Logan Square streets for hours on Friday night, protesting the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo at the hands of Chicago police. But in a familiar, and sadly predictable, series of events, the peaceful protest turned chaotic when police clashed with protesters in the late hours of the night.
Body-cam footage of the March 29 shooting, released Thursday, shows Chicago police officer Eric Stillman firing at Toledo as he raised his hands, without a weapon, after a brief foot chase. The video contradicts repeated statements by city officials, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, that Toledo was armed and a threat.
The protest lasted more than five hours and was largely planned by queer and trans people of color and community groups including Únete La Villita, Good Kids Mad City, and the Little Village Community Council. I saw a diverse swath of Black, Brown, and white faces wearing masks. I saw young people, people with families, and older people joined together in solidarity. I heard mothers talking to small children about why it was important to show up. I saw people there alone, others with friends.
Surrounding the Logan Square monument, speakers including Únete La Villita organizer Karina Solano, police torture survivor Mark Clements, and the families of police shooting victims, blasted racist and violent tactics by the city’s cops and a lack of meaningful action by powerful local politicians, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who made an early appearance at the protest. Preckwinkle, with people to her right and left, posed briefly for a photo before slinking away.
Toledo’s death has led to widespread calls for a number of city officials to resign, from Lightfoot to police superintendent David Brown.
Solano began the press conference sending messages of love to Toledo, a seventh grader, and his mother, Elizabeth Toledo. “Adam, we love you, we will not stop until there is justice for you!” Solano said to cheers from the crowd. “Elizabeth, we love you, we stand with you, we will fight for justice for your son!”
A cousin of Anthony Alvarez, a young father fatally shot by Chicago police after a foot chase two days after Toledo was killed, said police similarly disparaged Alvarez after his death. “During the burial of my cousin, we were just trying to say our last goodbyes,” she told the crowd. “During those two days, cops were already getting in contact with the media saying, ‘Don’t even bother with that family, Anthony didn’t even have family.'” She motioned to the crowd around her. “This is his family.”
As Solano and others spoke to the crowd, they were flanked by people holding posters with photos and illustrations of Toledo’s face and his name. Children held hand-made posters with family photos of Toledo along with hashtags calling for justice.
At one point during the press conference, speakers and attendees alike chanted “one shot and a cover-up,” both a reference to Toledo’s death and an allusion to the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald and efforts to withhold video footage of his death by former mayor Rahm Emanuel. Back then it was “16 shots and a cover-up.”
But alongside the anger and pain felt by many, there was also an overwhelming feeling of unity. Indigenous Aztec performers dazzled the crowd with a prayer dance, with spectators fixated in silence. A police helicopter overhead was the only sound audible apart from the dancers.
Onlookers cheered from balconies and porches as protesters spilled through sidewalks. Cars honked in support of protesters as they walked down the Logan Square sidewalk. Some chanted “fire fire gentrifier” and waved posters at patios and restaurant windows on Milwaukee as uncomfortable diners looked on. I saw at least one woman grimace as she ate.
Over a megaphone, a group of Black women sang “back up back up, we want freedom freedom, all these racist-ass cops we don’t need ’em need ’em.”
Block Club Chicago reporter Colin Boyle told me that a police officer shoved him after giving a dispersal order, knocking him to the ground and breaking a lens hood on his camera. This is not the first time that’s happened.
A young Black man, the son of Black Lives Matter Chicago’s executive director, was arrested after a scuffle between protesters and police. A high school senior was also arrested after police say the teen, who is white, spat on an officer while riding past on his bike. Both have since been released.
As an olive-skinned mother watched the march from her balcony adjacent to the park, a young boy, who looked Toledo’s age, poked his head out of the window to her right. She held him next to her as posters and flyers with illustrations of Toledo’s face on it moved in concert below. v