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9 Dec, 2015 19:20

Chicago protesters block streets, scuffle with cops, demand Mayor Emanuel resign

Chicago protesters block streets, scuffle with cops, demand Mayor Emanuel resign

Protests in downtown Chicago are growing, with more and more demonstrators calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation and an investigation into his administration. Protestors are blocking traffic on Michigan Avenue and entrances to major stores.

Mayor Emanuel delivered an address to Chicago city council Wednesday morning, vowing to fix Chicago police practices. In response, about 200 demonstrators gathered at City Hall and called for the mayor’s resignation, saying that one speech can’t fix decades of police corruption of the kind that culminated in 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s death.

READ MORE: DOJ launches probe into Chicago police after Laquan McDonald charges

The mayor had previously announced the resignations of Gary McCarthy, superintendent of Chicago Police Department, and Scott Ando, the head of the Independent Police Review Authority, in a bid to placate protesters. This was followed by the US Department of Justice launching an investigation the Chicago police.

"This is going to get a lot bigger than what it was," Jeffrey Coleman told NBC Chicago, pointing to intense anger among Chicago residents and alleged abuse by police officers that he said has led to "disrespect and murder in our community."

At 12 p.m local time, demonstrators walked out of school and work, gathering at Daley Plaza to march across the city. More than 1,800 people responded to the Facebook event saying that they would attend, according to NBC Chicago.

"We will now hold our leaders accountable for the transgressions they commit and that are committed under their watch," the group wrote on Facebook. "Task forces, press releases, symbolic replacements of one crony for another are no longer enough to mollify the masses."

At about 2:30 p.m local time, hundreds of protesters began to block the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street before marching north toward Michigan Bridge.

"This is a peaceful protest," a woman on a megaphone could be heard saying. "Do not give them any justification to attack us."

"Police don't kill us," she chanted.

Protesters chanted "Anita and Rahm must go!" in unison as they crossed the bridge and marched on Chicago's famous Magnificent Mile, stopping traffic. Anita Alvarez is the State's Attorney for Cook County, whose office has chosen not to indict certain officers involved in killings.

Some of the demonstrators showed discretion about blocking traffic, telling others not to block cars with children in the car. Others went up to the windows of vehicles and hit on the glass, shouting slogans such as "this is what democracy looks like!"

READ MORE: Chicago's top cop forced to resign, new accountability task force created following protests

A police blockade stopped protesters from moving any further north at Division Street, forcing protesters to divert west around 3:20 p.m. local time.

“What we’re saying to all those in power in the city: Until we get justice, until we get resources, there will be no peace and tranquility in these neighborhoods,” a protester said on a megaphone in the wealthy Near North Side neighborhood. “We’re going to send the message that until we get justice, until we get the resources in the poor parts of the city, we will come up to the rich parts of the city.”

“Give us what we want, or we’re gonna give you hell,” protesters chanted.

The protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations which have given voice to the mistrust felt towards Chicago’s police and government. They were sparked by the release of a video showing the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, at the hands of a white police officer. The officer involved in the shooting was charged with murder.

"If we're going to fix it, I want you to understand it's my responsibility with you," Emanuel said in his speech to a full Chicago City Council on Wednesday morning. "But if we're also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step, and I'm sorry. Nothing less than a total reform of the system and the culture that it breeds will meet the standard that we have set for ourselves."

"This time must be different. It will be a bumpy road, make no mistake about it," Emanuel said. "It is a painful process, and it is a long journey because of the issues we need to confront. But we as a city will not hesitate in the pursuit of what is right. We cannot shrink from the challenge any more than we can ignore the wrenching video of a troubled young man, a ward of the state of Illinois, failed by the system, surrounded by the police and gunned down on the streets of Chicago."