Hundreds of protesters gathered at Pioneer Court at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River late Friday morning.
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in McDonald's death on Oct. 20, 2014. Hours after Van Dyke was charged, city officials released dashboard camera video of Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times in the span of about 15 seconds on the Southwest Side.
"I wish that they could turn back the hands of time and this would have never happened, but it happened for a reason: to show that every job that a person have wherever, we've got a bad seed somewhere," community activist Andrew Holmes said ahead of Friday's march. "I said, in talking to my head not my heart, he does not represent our Chicago police officers because there are some fine officers and detectives that work these cases out there."
Many activists have called what happened to McDonald a "modern-day lynching."
The march along the Magnificent Mile comes after two nights of protests downtown after the video of McDonald's death was made public.
The video shows McDonald jogging down a street and then veering away from Van Dyke and another officer who emerge from a police SUV drawing their guns. Within seconds, Van Dyke begins firing. McDonald, who authorities allege was carrying a three-inch knife and was suspected of breaking into cars, spins around and falls to the pavement as Van Dyke keeps shooting.
Among the marchers Friday was 73-year-old Frank Chapman of Chicago, who said the disturbing video confirms what activists have said for years about Chicago police brutality.
"That needs to end. Too many have already died," said Chapman, whose organization, the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression, is pushing for an elected, civilian police accountability council.
Many Chicago police officers were lining Michigan Avenue as the march got underway. Police have said they will protect protesters' rights to free speech but won't tolerate criminal activity.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said officers have done a "remarkable" job monitoring protests and making sure they remain peaceful.
"That's why we're not having problems that other cities are having or have had in the past," McCarthy said before Friday's march. "We're going to facilitate the protests. We're trying to help them do what they want to do, quite frankly, and we're going to do it in a professional manner; but we will not allow criminal behavior, quite frankly. We're not going to stand by and watch something happen. We're not going to let windows get broken and stand by idly watching it happen. We're not going to let places get looted. It's just not going to happen."
Shortly after 11 a.m., activists began marching north along the middle of Michigan Avenue from Pioneer Court to Water Tower Place, through the heart of arguably the most popular retail district in the city.
When the demonstrators reached Water Tower Place, many tried to push their way inside the shopping center but found the doors on Michigan Avenue locked.
Activists said the intent of the protest was to slow down business on the Magnificent Mile.
"We have to stop business as usual until we stop police terror," protest organizer Grant Newburger said.
Despite the crowds of protesters and cold and rainy weather, plenty of shoppers were still heading into stores on Michigan Avenue and seemed to be taking things in stride, at least before the protest really caused any disruptions on Michigan Avenue.
"I think it's those people's right to protest, and I support their freedom to do that, so I'm just out here getting some shopping done, but good luck to anyone trying to brave the weather. It's pretty miserable out here," Andrew Boudwin said.
However, fellow shopper Keefe Powell said the protesters were in the wrong place.
"They need to be with the mayor, City Hall, police department. Department stores have nothing, nothing, nothing to do with this," he said.
Protesters have said they specifically targeted the Magnificent Mile because they don't want it to be business as usual on Black Friday; they want to keep attention on McDonald's death and the need for reforms within the Chicago Police Department.
Many have called for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and McCarthy to resign over their handling of the case.
Bishop Larry Trotter, senior pastor of Sweet Holy Spirit Church, has endorsed Alvarez's challenger, Kim Foxx, who said Alvarez took too long to charge Van Dyke with murder.
"See this beautiful black lady? We're going to put her in Anita's position," Trotter said Thursday.
Foxx said Alvarez should have acted sooner to charge Van Dyke and should have released the controversial dashboard camera video of the shooting much earlier.
"It is the responsibility of the state's attorney to hold accountable people who do wrong, whether you are gang banger, a police officer, or a politician. That is your job," Foxx xaid. "Right now, our whole city and our whole criminal justice system is under indictment because the people who were charged with making sure he was held accountable did it in darkness."
Trotter also insisted McCarthy must lose his job for not moving to fire Van Dyke.
Activists have said more than 20 misconduct complaints were filed against Van Dyke during his career without him facing any disciplinary action.
"The superintendent needs to be fired too," Trotter said.
McCarthy said he has no plans to resign, and the mayor has given him his full support.
"I've never quit on anything in my life. I'm 56 years old. Don't expect that to change," McCarthy said. "The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back, and if people peel away the onion on what's happening right now in the policing world, you're going to find a police department that's doing an exceptional job, and quite frankly I'm not going to quit on the people of Chicago, and I'll never quit on these men and women."