Early Monday morning, the aftermath of a massive protest in Chicago demanding justice for a recent police shooting became national news. Long-simmering tensions boiled over in the city's downtown area after police shot a 20-year-old Black man during a foot chase, according to officials.
During a briefing with reporters on Sunday evening, police Deputy Chief Yolanda Talley said that officers were pursuing a suspect on foot. Police reported that they received calls about a male with a gun around 2:30 p.m. in the city’s South Side neighborhood on Sunday when the suspect returned fire. “During the foot pursuit, the offender turned and fired shots at the officers,” Talley said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The officers returned [fire], discharging their weapons.”
Talley said that officers recovered a weapon from the crime scene and the suspect was later taken to University of Chicago Medical Center, where his condition is currently unknown. According to a police account of what happened next, a crowd of about 30 protesters gathered near where police held the line at the crime scene.
“Emotions were running high,” Talley said, adding that the protesters were “responding to misinformation,” about the suspect’s age. In a subsequent press conference with reporters on Monday morning, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown confirmed that the man who was shot by police was 20 years old.
As protests continued in the streets, police later deployed pepper spray on growing crowds, and some 400 officers were eventually deployed downtown in response to the size and intensity of the demonstration. During the Monday morning press conference, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that the protests downtown had included instances of “brazen and extensive criminal looting and destruction,” that had “nothing to do with legitimate first amendment expression.” Lightfoot called upon the state’s attorney and courts to hold protesters accountable for the destruction of city property.
“To those doing criminal behaviour, we are coming for you. We intend to hold you accountable for your actions,” Lightfoot said. “We can’t continue to allow for this to happen and for people to believe there is no accountability. No one wants to hold people in jail because they are poor, but these people need to be held accountable.”
But protesters and outraged community members tell a different story — one that links the repeated systemic failures of Chicago’s elected officials to its outsized police force and the continued criminalization of young residents.
“Yesterday there was an act of state violence targeting a Black youth in the disinvested Englewood community,” Brendan Shiller, a criminal defense lawyer in the city, tweeted on Monday morning. “In response, Black youth protested by targeting property emblematic of wealth inequality & disinvestment. Their response was more peaceful than the violence that begot it.”
Many civilians throughout the Chicago area have kept protesting in spite of mayor Lori Lightfoot deploying Trump's federal agents to quell demonstrations. The unrest in Chicago is more evidence of the profound impact that the Black Lives Matter movement has had in communities across America following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. After weeks of sustained protest in cities across the U.S., federal agents were eventually deployed to Portland, Oregon, deepening the divide between protesters and law enforcement and showcasing the violent lengths the government will go to in order to quash demonstrations.
The protests also follow a historically violent month of July for Chicago, where recent analysis by the Tribune found that gun violence has increased by 45 percent as compared to the same time last year. Violence against young Black men in the city has also continued to rise in recent years and months. A report from The Triibe details nearly 60% of the homicides committed in the city this year victimized people under the age of 30, with 68% of those victims being Black.
Despite the mass amount of law enforcement currently taking over the city of Chicago, advocates continue to seek justice for Black lives — particularly for young Black men. "Is shooting a child then threatening/intimidating his loved ones not "criminal behavior? Does the right to be safe not extend to Black residents? Do we still have to prove the lives of the poorest are worth more than the property of the richest?" tweeted Benji Hart.