Chicagoans stage peaceful sit-in following Ferguson announcement

By Megan K. Rauch

Demonstrators camped outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office Tuesday to protest urban violence and racial discrimination.
Demonstrators camped outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office Tuesday to protest urban violence and racial discrimination.

More than 100 people gathered outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s fifth-floor office at City Hall Tuesday for a sit-in to address urban violence, police brutality and the lack of economic opportunity for blacks in Chicago.

The protest follows the announcement Monday that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal indictment for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.

“Last night’s decision shows a lack of justice in our country,” said Haroon Garel, 34, of Woodlawn, one of the protestors. “It’s a continuation of an ongoing problem.”

Garel said he and other African-Americans in Chicago regularly experience discrimination in their daily lives. “I have been stopped by the police just for walking around. I’ve experienced disrespect by the police. People see me coming and they tuck in their wallets,” he said.

Haroon hoped the sit-in would lead to more accountability on the part of police and government officials in the U.S.

Ferris Dukes, another protester, said he was “highly upset” to about the lack on an indictment, but he hoped it would be a “wake-up call to America about how we need to take a stand.”

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Dukes said, “I definitely felt targeted by the police.”

Dukes alleged that he was grabbed from behind and cuffed by police on Sept. 24 when he was walking home from an outside vigil for a friend who had died. He believes the police were alarmed when some people at the event became agitated. “They couldn’t take me to the station though because I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” he said.

Ashley Bohrer, a white 26-year-old who lives in Chicago, attended the sit-in as a show of solidarity.

“We live in a racist and sexist society. It’s horrifying,” Bohrer said. “The police are an institution. Last night’s rulings show us that a $15 stolen cigar is worth more than a black man’s life.”

The sit-in featured a number of speakers including ministers, college professors, poets and university students from the Gaza Strip. Members of the Black Youth Project 100, the main organizers of the event, passed out water and fruit. The Chicago Teachers Union sent over pizzas. About half a dozen police officers guarded the doors to the mayor’s office but did not try to get anyone to leave.

The sit-in is expected to last 28 hours. Organizers of the event said the time symbolizes how often a black person is killed by police or vigilantes in the U.S.