Black Lives Matter Protest

 

Christmas Eve in Chicago I met up with a friend to see what we could see and then shoot it. We walked out of my hotel room and headed towards the Magnificent Mile and walked right into the heart of a Black Lives Matter protest for Laquan McDonald*, a young black teen who had been shot 16 times by police responding to a complaint of car break-ins back in 2014. Release of a police dash cam video in November of 2015 that showed what happened to Laquan sparked weeks of protest.

 

IMG_1354 2015 Christmas Chicago THE BEST WP

Whom do I admire? On this afternoon I admired the efforts of both camps in this protest. The issue is a valid one. To be young and black in America can be a death sentence. The leaders of Black Lives Matter intended to disrupt commerce on the biggest shopping day of the year in the richest shopping district in Chicago to make their point. They aimed to draw attention to their cause with peaceful protest.

 

IMG_0795 Black Lives for WordPress

For the police, their goal was to maintain order and prevent disruption of business without  allowing the situation to decay into violence. There were tense moments when that could easily have happened. The decision was made to allow the protestors to have their say. It turned out to be a wise one. The protestors had the streets and sidewalks but were very effectively prevented from actually entering stores. Streets were blocked off by police on mountain bikes and due to where my hotel was my shooting partner and I found ourselves on the “inside” with the protestors and news media.  It was amazing, and slightly frightening to have these well trained law keepers slip silently by to cut off movements of protestors.

 

IMG_1146 Black Lives for WordPress

 

This could have went down in so many ways. It could have been as bad as 68 but the leaders on both sides kept it together. THAT is to be commended.

 

Laquan McDonald

What others admire

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter Protest

    • Thank you. It was a powerful, exhilarating, mildly intimidating experience. I’ve been in a situation before where I was simply a witness..and that was all that was needed to prevent injustice. On Christmas Eve I felt it was time to again simply witness. A lot of shoppers had left. It was strange, having to pass down a black and blue corridor of police in gear to get into a store to buy a last minute Christmas gift. That had to be a fearsome thing for some.

      I did not want to leave the group of protestors alone. I felt they might need an impartial, calm witness. By the same token I noted protestors that crossed a line, well, one at least, she was trying to mix it up. Repeatedly she tried to escalate things out of control. I suppose a riot would have drawn more attention but that was not the point of BLM leadership on that day. At one point I found myself standing by a police commissioner and she was in his face saying some really nasty things to him. The national press was looking elsewhere so I raised my camera and began recording her. When she noticed I was recording she looked at my camera, stopped and walked away. I may have saved her life. The man next to me was near seething. He was older, the younger cops, and they were a broad racial mix, were really laid back compared to the older guys. The police department is changing.

  1. This kind of restraint is not what makes the national press, because it just doesn’t attract the viewers, but I think it’s very important to see. It doesn’t have to become a riot to make yourself heard. I like the black and white photos to evoke the two sides standing their ground.

  2. So sad. ‘Race’: some physiologists some while ago said this, but does anyone listen? Difference – meaning not white, meaning ‘disabled’, or any other thing that can make a person appear to be ‘less than’ is still feared and marginalised. Just saying not ranting. You were brave.

    • We fear difference but we have more in common than not. My friend has a shot of me surrounded by police but I was not brave so much as curious. This was democracy at work. My personal experience has been that the national media, in their quest to sell products and air time, is rarely accurate. I’ll attend a political event then read about it in the press and wonder if we were really at the same event.

      There was a moment of heightened concern; I had stumbled upon this protest and had not planned or dressed for long hours in the cold so at one point, mid-afternoon, there were more media than protestors, I decided to take a break and check gear. I was north of the action and huddled against a storefront for warmth but with silent signals the action came to me. The protestors tried to get into the store I was leaning on. When that happened half of the blockade across Michigan Ave to the north quickly deployed, brushing past me weaving in and out of the gathering protestors, press and citizens like silent ninjas. They cut through the crowds, met at the doors, then turned outward making an arc of police bodies and then moved that arc of gathering police bodies outwards, pushing the crowd back. It was very effective. It was Christmas and no one wanted violence. The police were not in riot gear. They knew the nation was watching and wise decisions were made to allow the protestors to have their say and avoid escalation. I had read about this ‘moving shield of bodies’ before. It was well practiced and as they moved in along the edge of the building I was leaning on many of them brushed me in passing. Unsettling, that.

  3. Pingback: Admiration (Flower Parade 1) | What's (in) the picture?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: