Five people were arrested during protests that erupted Tuesday night and stretched into early Wednesday in Chicago after police released footage showing an officer firing a barrage of bullets at a teenager, authorities said.
Scores of protesters flooded downtown Chicago on Tuesday evening and remained on the streets for several hours. The demonstrators marched along major roadways, blocked intersections and gathered outside a police building, chanting as they moved through part of the city.
Police described the protests as peaceful and said there were no reports of property damage.
“While on the whole last night’s demonstrations were peaceful, a few isolated incidents resulted in five arrests related to resisting arrest and assaulting police officers,” Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said in a statement Wednesday.
Officials in Chicago had been preparing for unrest since they were ordered by a judge to release the video footage of Jason Van Dyke, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department, fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald last year.
The video shows McDonald walking down a street in the southwest part of the city when officers arrive. In the silent footage, which was captured on another police car’s dashboard camera, Van Dyke is seen firing within seconds of getting out of his car. McDonald, who had been carrying a knife, falls to the street almost immediately, and Van Dyke is seen continuing to shoot at the teenager.
Here is the video released Tuesday. (Warning: It is very graphic.)
Hours before the video was released by the Chicago police, Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, a rarity given how unusual it is for police officers to be charged for fatally shooting people. Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, said the officer feared for his life when he opened fire.
City officials, though, were bluntly critical of the officer and his actions. At a news conference announcing the video’s release, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said Van Dyke “violated … basic moral standards that bind our community together,” while Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy called the episode “a tragic ending to a tragic life.”
Emanuel and McCarthy also echoed the words of McDonald’s family, who called for peaceful protests in response to the footage.
“No one understands the anger more than us but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful,” his family said in a statement released by an attorney. “Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name.”
Still, city leaders have been worried about the reaction to the video, particularly given the unrest that has flared up in cities across the country since last year amid intensified scrutiny of police use of deadly force.
Since a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last year, city after city and department after department have come under fire for a fatal encounter or controversial use of force.
In some cities, the largest unrest followed a grand jury’s decision not to indict an officer, as was seen in New York last December. Demonstrators in many places have called for officers involved to be charged, for video footage to be released publicly and for independent investigations, all three of which have now occurred in Chicago.
But in some cases, the actions have been followed by relative calm. In North Charleston, S.C., and Cincinnati, officers who shot and killed unarmed black men were charged with murder the same day video footage depicting the shootings was released publicly. In both cities, the protests never became heated, and authorities in those places seemed to heed the lessons of Ferguson — where public information about Brown’s death was scarce in the days that followed, even as tension mounted in the community — in rushing to give the public information and and reassurances.
However, the charges against Van Dyke and the footage of McDonald’s death came more than a year after the shooting, a length of time that protesters have sharply criticized. And the city fought the release of the video, only making it available after a judge’s order.
Protesters moved through Chicago’s Loop and blocked the Eisenhower Expressway in the hours after the video’s release, but later in the evening, the scene became more confrontational. Protesters and officers scuffled after officers were apparently seen making arrests, and sirens wailed in the air as demonstrators shouted “16 shots” in reference to the number of times Van Dyke shot at McDonald.
Three of the people arrested during the protests were charged with misdemeanor counts of resisting a police officer and released on bond. One person was charged with aggravated battery of a police officer, a felony, while another person was charged with possessing a deadly weapon and unlawfully using a stun gun; both of these people are expected in bond court Wednesday.
McCarthy had said people could protest peacefully.
“People have a right to be angry,” he said Tuesday. “People have a right to protest, people have a right to free speech. But they do not have a right to commit criminal acts.”
Demonstrators have pledged days of protests, with these possible actions coinciding with the long Thanksgiving weekend and the crowds of people expected to go shopping on Black Friday.
Chicago’s public schools were already going to be closed Wednesday and Friday due to the holiday, so students are not scheduled to return until Monday. In a letter, the school system said that while it will not show students the video, it has created a toolkit to help teachers talk with students about it.
Mark Guarino in Chicago contributed to this report, which has been updated. First published at 9:20 a.m.