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Chicago Protesters March Over ‘Sick and Sad’ Police Killing of 13-Year-Old Adam Toledo

Jonathan Ballew
·4 min read
Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty
Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty

CHICAGO—Clashes broke out between protesters and police on the city’s Northwest Side on Friday after thousands of demonstrators gathered in Logan Square Park to demand justice for Adam Toledo, the seventh-grader whose death at the hands of a police officer last month has shaken much of the city to its core.

The event started out peacefully, and continued that way for several hours, but tensions grew to a boiling point at around 10 p.m. when some demonstrators faced off against a line of police. At least one person was detained.

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Thousands of demonstrators had marched peacefully in the hours beforehand, but anger was palpable among the crowd. Demonstrators chanted “f--k the police” and “f--k 12,” and at one point the crowd headed toward Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home just a short distance away. Police had already blocked the area off, and a line of bike police that was stopping demonstrators from getting through was met with chants of: “CPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?”

After a roughly 30-minute standoff with riot police near the mayor's home, protesters turned and marched in a different direction, at one point blaring Rage Against the Machine's “Killing in the Name of” and shutting down traffic in one area.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Jonathan Ballew</div>
Jonathan Ballew

Despite massive turnout, the protest remained largely peaceful.

Just 24 hours after authorities released brutal body camera footage showing the 13-year-old’s final moments in a Little Village alleyway on March 29, activists were questioning why Toledo was shot in the chest even though he complied with the officer’s commands to show his hands.

“This is sick and sad that a 13-year-old was shot and killed by the police when he put his hands up. At first it was defund [the police], but now we want them abolished,” said Kishae Williams, a resident of Oak Park.

The release of the footage on Thursday left many activists and residents in tears over the sheer shock of seeing the 13-year-old’s death, but it also raised questions about why authorities had earlier claimed he was holding a gun at the time he was shot, when the body camera footage showed him with both hands raised and with nothing in them.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Jonathan Ballew</div>
Jonathan Ballew

The scene captured on video seemed a far cry from the “armed confrontation” that Chicago police described in their initial statement on the shooting. Police have said a chaotic chain of events led to the seventh-grader’s death. Officers responding to reports of gunfire in the West Side neighborhood found Toledo and a 21-year-old man named Ruben Roman on a street corner, and one of them was known to be armed, prosecutors said. Both took off running and while Roman was tackled and detained, Toledo ran down an alley and was pursued by another officer. Toledo eventually stopped at the officer’s command, and the body camera footage shows him turn toward the officer and quickly raise his hands in the air before he was shot in the chest.

The footage also shows an officer shine a flashlight on a gun a few feet away from where Toledo fell. A lawyer for the officer involved, Officer Eric Stillman, has said his client believed Toledo was armed at the time he fired his weapon.

(After a Cook County prosecutor claimed in court that Toledo had refused to show his hands and turned toward the officer with a gun, a spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office told The Daily Beast that the prosecutor’s account was inaccurate, and the prosecutor was not “fully informed.”)

<div class="inline-image__credit">Jonathan Ballew</div>
Jonathan Ballew

Protesters at Friday’s march kept the pressure on over these inconsistencies. “Complied, still died,” one banner read.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Jonathan Ballew</div>
Jonathan Ballew

Earlier Friday, the Toledo family reiterated a plea for calm they made the day the footage was released. Lawyers for the family said in a statement to The Daily Beast, “We understand that emotions in the community are running high in the wake of the release of police body camera and other videos depicting the March 29 police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and that protests are planned for later today. The Toledo family implores everyone who gathers in Adam’s name to remain peaceful, respectful and nonviolent and to continue to work constructively and tirelessly for reform.”

<div class="inline-image__credit">Jonathan Ballew</div>
Jonathan Ballew

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