CHICAGO – Over 1,000 protesters gathered in a city park Friday evening to protest 13-year-old Adam Toledo, whose death from a police bullet provided a citywide view of the use of violence policies and the way officials are reacting to the neighborhood triggered crime.
Volunteers spilled onto the surrounding streets, some clogged with cars, handed out homemade masks to protesters. Signs reading “Justice for Adam Toledo” with an illustration of Adam against a background of clouds were posted on the windows of several small businesses in the area. Groups of police officers on bicycles surrounded the edge of the protest.
The outcry grows after a watchdog agency published disturbing video Thursday by a Chicago police officer who shot and killed Adam who apparently raised and threw his hands Doubts about previous police reports and city officials who originally referred to the incident as an “armed confrontation”.
The protest on Friday night was mostly peaceful, but there were a handful of arrests. Protesters chanted “let them go” when at least two people were arrested outside Logan Square Park. A man was put in a police car as protesters gathered. Some shouted to form a circle around the police car.
Another man appeared to be in police custody just a few meters away when dozens of officers barricaded the street.
Sandra Nevarez, the mother of Marc Anthony Nevarez, who says her son was killed by police in Chicago on October 23 last year, spoke at the protest.
“There is no reason a mother should bury her child,” she said, adding, “There should be no reason why I go to the cemetery every day. No reason I don’t have grandchildren. “
Roxana Figueroa, the cousin of 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez, who was fatally shot and killed by Chicago police in a car chase two days after Adam’s death, said the videos gave her family the strength to demand transparency on her case as well.
“When I saw the video, it gave our family the strength to show up today,” she said, flanked by seven other family members. Three young children with the family held signs with pictures of them and Anthony.
The demonstration in Logan Square Park was organized by several community organizations, including Únete La Villita, GoodKids MadCity and Chicago Freedom School.
Hundreds of people – including families and young children – marched from Logan Square Park to a nearby intersection and sang, “Say his name, Adam Toledo.”
The crowd knelt at the intersection and heard from several youth speakers calling for the Chicago Police Department to be abolished, and then observed three minutes of silence – one for each of three people fatally shot by Chicago police, including Adam Toledo – as helicopters hovered above.
“Adam, we love you. We won’t stop until there is justice for you,” the protesters sang. “We will fight for justice.”
Anthony Claypool, 43, brought his two five-year-old sons with him. One of them was sitting on his shoulders with a sign that read, “Protect Children! Stop Violence!” The other, who held Claypool’s hand, had a sign that read “Stop the police from harming people !!!” Claypool said they made the characters themselves, but talking to his young children about the Adam Toledo shooting isn’t easy.
“We just told them it was an injustice and that Adam was really badly hurt. We didn’t go into finality,” he said. “It is important that we show our children the reality of injustice in the world. I want my children to contribute to the advancement of justice.”
As a father, Claypool said it was “heartbreaking” to see such a young child killed by the police.
“I have no words,” he said. “All I can say is that we must do everything we can to promote justice and peace for color communities.”
In the crowd, “Justice for Adam” signs were attached to backpacks and the backs of bicycles. On trees and telephone poles were posters of Adam’s face next to the words “Adam Toledo Murdered by CPD”. Some held prayer candles that said “Adam RIP”. Nearby children were clutching their parents’ hands and blowing bubbles.
Maria Valle Coto, 27, was lying on the sidewalk next to her friend helping her to draw “Justicia Para Adam” in red on a poster. Coto lives in Pilsen, not far from the place where Adam was killed.
“It scares me that this could happen to me or to someone I love,” she said. “I don’t feel safe anymore. Black and brown people live in fear.”
Coto said justice for them is systematic because “police violence is institutional”. She said justice means defusing the police and channeling their resources into community organizations. She hopes people don’t just stop protesting.
“We’re getting to the next tragedy quickly,” she said. “I hope nothing happens this time. I hope that something changes. I hope we invest in our communities.”
Three hours after the 39-degree protest, over a thousand people were still marching, some putting on gloves and others holding candles.
As the group passed Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s block, a line of police blocked the street and some sang explosives towards Lightfoot’s house while others marched west and then south.
Laura Machedo, 25, held a sign that read “They were all our sons”. She said it applies to all victims of police violence who have been “stolen from their communities”.
“Enough is enough,” she said. “Something new happened every day. I’m tired.”
Machedo’s parents live on the same block as Adam, she said, and the shooting “struck near home”. Most of all, she said she was angry at the allegations that Adam was holding a gun when he was shot when the footage of the shooting suggested otherwise.
“You lied,” she said. “It’s proof that we have to blame the system, not Adam, not his mother, not his church.”
Virginia Rounds, 45, walked through the crowd reading signs to her young daughter, who could not yet read.
“It’s full of questions,” said Rounds.
“It is really important that my children keep their eyes open to what is going on,” she said. “Black and brown children cannot turn a blind eye to this injustice, so neither should my white children.”
Rounds said they were also in favor of defusing the police.
“This system was put in place to protect the bad apples and to embrace the bad apples,” she said.