Activists Plan Repeat of Mag Mile Black Friday Protests

Brigid Sweeney, Chicago Business, November 22, 2016

For the second year in a row, protesters are planning to block shoppers from entering stores along North Michigan Avenue on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year.

The effort, planned by a diffuse network that includes Black Lives Matter, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and area churches, seeks to draw attention to a wide range of issues, including police shootings, racism and economic inequalities that keep Chicago’s South and West sides mired in poverty and violence.

The organizers say they hope this year’s turnout will be larger than last year’s, when hundreds of people temporarily obstructed access to retailers along Chicago’s most famous shopping strip and cost some stores a reported 50 percent of their sales on Black Friday.

“We’re expecting a bigger turnout this year, though this is not an exact science,” one of the self-identified organizers, Frank Chapman, a field organizer with the Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, told Crain’s. “The reason we’re looking for a bigger turnout is that Trump is the president-elect and, boy, are people pissed.”

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Chapman said protesters remain angry about the Chicago police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and about what they say is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ineffective police accountability legislation. But he also said that the protesters were not defined by race alone. “We’ve been calling everyone who has a grievance: the African-American community, Latino people, the white working class,” he said. “I’m not going to write the white working class off as racist.”

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“One of the cornerstones about why we’re boycotting on Black Friday is to attempt to redirect people to businesses owned by people of color and women, and explain why it’s important to patronize these businesses,” said Kimberly Veal, a leader of Black Lives Matter. “More policing and the militarization of the police is not the solution” to violence, she said. Current political leadership “fails to address the lack of educational and economic advantages at play in this city.”

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Last year’s boycott brought hundreds of protesters to Michigan Avenue, blocking entrances to stores including Apple, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, Saks Fifth Avenue, Disney and Brooks Brothers.

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