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North Side protest draws thousands
by Matt Simonette
2020-06-02

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Thousands of Chicagoans gathered on the North Side in the late afternoon of June 1 for a demonstration in response to the killing of George Floyd the previous week. The event was also a response to the myriad episodes of police violence against persons of color in Chicago and other cities across the United States, as well as economic challenges they face.

Activist Andy Thayer—who took part in the rally and provided some assistance with its planning—called the event "refreshing" and said that it, in size at least, resembled a Pride parade more focused on community members rather than commercial interests. Thayer estimated that between one and two thousand were present for an opening rally at Belmont and Sheffield, and that participation "swelled" to several thousand by the time they reached Uptown, where participants sat-in, then dispersed, with many joining protestors on Lake Shore Drive.

The protest was organized by Lake View resident Tatyana Sampson and was explicitly advertised as a peaceful response to the events of the prior week. The day before, Sampson wrote on Facebook: "I have been a resident of Lake View for four years and have been to many of our shops and restaurants countless times and have a lot of great memories there. … I can assure you that the goal of this protest is for Black people to grieve and have our voices heard, not to cause damage or destruction to anyone or any property."

"People needed to have their own statement about what happened the previous weekend," Thayer said.

In opening remarks prior to their stepping off, Sampson explained why Boystown was specifically chosen.

"A lot of the people in Boystown have forgotten that Stonewall was a riot," Sampson said. "Stonewall was started by Black trans people. … We're going to remind them that stuff like this is why they can sit in their fancy luxury condos, overlooking Halsted with their rainbow-brick walkways—the one "trans one" too—and sit comfortably."

The stopping-point in Uptown was near the Stewart School Lofts, a development that was the focus of one of many gentrification-related controversies in that neighborhood. Thayer said that the march was intended to highlight not just racism but economic struggles that people of color struggle with regularly.

Gentrification "ruins people's lives," Sampson said June 1.

Thayer said that several persons were arrested for violating the curfew imposed on Chicagoans that evening; he said that the event had largely ended prior to the curfew taking effect, but many were nevertheless stranded by the shutdown of CTA service; indeed the shutdown of service through Lake View earlier that afternoon meant that many had difficulty reaching the protest, he added.

Thayer also said that city authorities were closely watching at the ready throughout the event, adding that participants were nearly surrounded by officers in riot gear by the time they reached Uptown.

But Thayer is glad that people across the country are becoming more responsive to the abuses that people of color often suffer at the hand of authorities. He noted that episodes filmed by cellphone cameras now mean that so-called "good cops" can't always stay silent to cover the misdeeds of violent ones.

"Until there are real consequences for the code of silence, this kind of shit is going to go on," Thayer said.


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