CHICAGO — Over 1,000 protesters gathered in a park Friday and marched for hours in remembrance of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, whose fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer late last month has sparked a citywide look at foot chase policies.
Disturbing videos released Thursday by a police watchdog agency showed an officer chased Adam, who appeared to slow down and toss a gun behind a fence before turning toward the officer with his hands up, casting doubt on prior accounts from police and city officials who initially described the incident as an “armed confrontation.”
Demonstrators – including families with young children – gathered in Logan Square Park in the early evening as a brass band played. The group listened to a series of youth speakers and heard from families of people fatally shot by Chicago police before marching through the neighborhood and past the mayor’s block.
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The crowd returned to the park four hours after the event began, and organizers told attendees to go home. But a scuffle broke out with police as people were dispersing, and at least two people were arrested.
As the first person was arrested outside the park and taken into a squad car, protesters chanted “Let them go,” and some called on protesters to form a circle around the car to prevent it leaving. A man who appeared to be attempting to prevent the car from leaving was also taken into police custody as dozens of officers barricaded the street.
As the group gathered in the park Friday evening, hundredsspilled onto surrounding streets, some clogged with cars, and volunteers passed out homemade masks to protesters. Signs saying “Justice for Adam Toledo” with an illustration of Adam against a backdrop of clouds were posted in windows of several small businesses in the area.
The demonstration was organized by community organizations, including Únete La Villita, GoodKids MadCity and Chicago Freedom School.
The mother of Marc Anthony Nevarez, 25, who was fatally shot by Chicago police in Adam’s neighborhood last October, teared up as she spoke to the crowd before the march.
“There’s no reason why a mother should be burying her kid,” Sandra Nevarez said, adding, “There’s should be no reason why I’m going to the cemetery every day. No reason why I don’t have grandkids.”
The cousin of Anthony Alvarez, 22, who was fatally shot by Chicago police in a foot chase two days after Adam was killed, said seeing the videos gave her family the strength to demand transparency in their case, too.
“When I saw the video, it gave our family hella strength to show up today,” said Roxana Figueroa, flanked by seven other family members.
After the speeches, an Indigenous dance group from northwest Indiana and Chicago performed a “prayer” dance for the Toledo, Nevarez and Alvarez families.
The crowd then marched several blocks, chanting “say his name, Adam Toledo,” before taking a knee at an intersection to hear from several more youth speakers, who called for the abolition of the Chicago Police Department. The group observed three minutes of silence — one for each of Toledo, Nevarez and Alvarez — as helicopters hovered above.
“Adam we love you. We will not stop until there is justice for you,” the protesters chanted. “We will fight for justice.”
Anthony Claypool, 43, brought his two five-year-old sons to the protest. One of them sat on his shoulders and carried a sign that read “Protect kids! Stop violence!” The other, holding Claypool’s hand, carried a sign with the words “Stop police from hurting people!”
Claypool said they made the signs themselves but speaking to his young children about the shooting of Adam Toledo wasn’t easy.
“We just told them that it was an injustice and that Adam was hurt really badly. We didn’t go into the finality of it,” he said. “It’s important for us to show our children the reality of the injustice in the world. I want my kids to help promote justice.”
Among the crowd, “Justice for Adam” signs were pinned on backpacks and the backs of bicycles. Posters of Adam’s face alongside the words “Adam Toledo murdered by CPD” were posted on trees and telephone poles. Some held prayer candles with the phrase “Adam RIP.” Children nearby clutched their parents’ hands and blew bubbles.
Three hours into the protest in 39-degree weather, people were still marching, some putting on gloves. As the group passed Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s block, a line of police officers blocked the street, and some chanted expletives toward Lightfoot’s house as others marched on .
Laura Machedo, 25, held a sign with the words “they were all of our sons.” She said it refers to all victims of police violence who were “stolen from their communities.”
“Enough is enough,” she said. “Everyday there’s something new that happened. Im tired.”
Machedo’s parents live on the same block Adam did, she said, and the shooting “hit close to home.” Most of all, she said she was angry at allegations that Adam was holding a gun when he was shot when footage of the shooting suggested otherwise.
“They lied,” she said. “It’s proof we need to blame the system, not Adam, not his mother, not his community.”
Virginia Rounds, 45, walked through the crowd, reading signs to her young daughter who couldn’t read yet. “She’s full of questions,” Rounds said.
“It’s really important for my children to have their eyes open to what is going on,” she said. “Black and brown children don’t get to close their eyes to this injustice, so my white children shouldn’t either.”