Chicago

Protesters Take to Chicago’s Streets Over Rittenhouse Verdict

Love Jordan, a 2016 Loyola graduate, was among hundreds of protesters who took to the streets of Chicago Nov. 20 following Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal the day prior.

“We’re told to set the world on fire,” Jordan said, referring to a quote from St. Ignatius often referenced at Loyola. “That’s what we’re doing here.”

During a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020, Rittenhouse shot and killed 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and 26-year-old Anthony Huber and wounded 27-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz. 

The Antioch, Illinois teen was found not guilty in a unanimous decision on his charges, five of which were felonies.

Jordan said she grew up near Kenosha and had cousins that went to school with Rittenhouse. She said the verdict reminded her of the racist experiences she had growing up in the area in addition to other cases related to racial justice that had made it into the national spotlight. 

“Because of how many times we’ve heard ‘not guilty,’ it’s like we’re being dared to keep being angry at being killed,” the 28-year-old said.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix A protester holds a sign reading, “Guilty as hell (the whole damn system)” at a demonstration over Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal Nov. 20.

Before the demonstration began in Federal Plaza, a few of the 20 vested protest marshals passed out hand warmers and signs. Once microphones had been set up, one of the marshals led the crowd in chanting “no justice, no peace” before introducing the first speaker, Troy Gaston from Black Lives Matter Chicago.

“[The verdict] was telling us to be quiet under the threat of violence,” Gaston said to the crowd during his speech. 

Gaston said the next step in seeking justice would be to demand federal charges be brought against Rittenhouse. Despite his frustration with the outcome, he said the several hundred people who showed up to demonstrate was a sign of hope for him.

“It shows that the people of our country understand that it takes a collective body, people from all different walks of life, to come and understand when something is wrong,” Gaston told The Phoenix. “It takes a whole city to fight against a historically racist system.”

Zack Miller | The Phoenix Miracle Boyd, an organizer with GoodKidsMadCity, leads a chant during the Nov. 20 protests over Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal.

Miracle Boyd, a youth organizer with GoodKidsMadCity, also addressed the crowd. She told the group that the verdict wasn’t surprising and told them to turn their disappointment in the outcome into action.

“Folks said to let the courts handle it, and they did,” Boyd said. “Don’t be shocked, be disgusted and enraged.”

After the speakers finished, another group of protesters that had been walking west on West Adams Street was absorbed into the crowd. The demonstrators then began the planned march, which was just over a mile and a half long, around the city with Rev. Jesse Jackson at the helm, though he exited before the group got to Michigan Avenue.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix Rev. Jesse Jackson led the first leg of the march over Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal Nov. 20.

The protesters’ path took them past Millennium Park, the Macy’s on State Street and the Christkindlmarket. Demonstrators tried to urge pedestrians near these places to join them by chanting “out of your homes and into the streets” as they passed by, even stopping to directly address those at the seasonal Christmas market.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix Demonstrators pass by Millennium Park Nov. 20 during a protest over Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal.

With just one block left until the march circuit brought the group back to Federal Plaza, the situation became momentarily tense.

When demonstrators took over the intersection at Jackson Boulevard and Dearborn Street some cars tried to make a right turn before protesters blocked their path. Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers tried to clear the way by holding back protesters, prompting demonstrators and protest marshals to shout at the police.

“If you weren’t wearing that uniform they’d beat your ass too,” a demonstrator said to a Black CPD officer.

The demonstration ended with chants of “we keep us safe” and “don’t go home alone” before the crowd switched over to chanting “we will win” and dispersed.

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