Hundreds marched through the streets of Chicago on Friday to protest the police shooting of Adam Toledo, a day after police released of body-cam video showing the deadly shooting of the 13-year-old boy with his hands in the air.
About a thousand people gathered on Friday evening in a park on Chicago’s north-west side, some holding signs that read “Stop killing kids” and “CPD can’t be reformed”. A brass band played music as the crowd chanted: “No justice, no peace.”
The demonstrators observed a moment of silence and expressed solidarity with the boy’s relatives, who had implored protesters to remain peaceful. The rally began in Logan Square Park, about five miles (8km) north of where the shooting occurred.
Dulce Rodriguez, 34, held a sign that read, “We are Adam Toledo.” Her 5-year-old daughter, Vida waved a large Mexican flag.
“That could’ve been anybody’s kid,” said Rodriquez, who lost a cousin to gun violence last June.
A white officer killed Toledo last month. Footage of the incident was released by Chicago’s civilian office of police accountability on Thursday. Contrary to earlier indications by authorities that he was holding a weapon, the video appeared to show nothing in the teenager’s hands.
Speaking Friday on the floor of the Illinois house of representatives, the state representative Edgar Gonzalez, who lives four blocks from where Toledo died, called the killing a “murder” and expressed frustration at what he described as a too-familiar pattern of police abuse.
“So if you put your hands up, they shoot. If you put your hands down, they shoot. If you walk, you run, you hide, you sleep, you do exactly as they say, they still shoot,” Gonzalez said. “So I ask the members of this chamber, what are we supposed to do?”
The mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, pleaded for calm on Thursday, mindful of the violence that took place earlier this week at protests in Minnesota over the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man shot dead in Brooklyn Center by a white police officer who claimed she mistook her service handgun for a Taser. The killing in the Minneapolis suburb came amid the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed George Floyd in the city last year.
Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered outside the heavily guarded Brooklyn Center police station every night since former officer Kim Potter shot Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday. Police have driven away protesters with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and long lines of riot police, in tactics denounced by Brooklyn Center mayor Mike Elliott.
“We failed Adam,” she said at an emotional press conference with Latino community leaders before the video was released publicly.
Adam was shot and killed by police on 29 March following a foot pursuit by officers.
At the time of the shooting, he was with Ruben Roman, 21, who has been charged with several felonies in connection to that night including child endangerment and reckless discharge of a firearm.
The authorities had initially indicated that Adam had a gun in his hand as he turned towards officers during the chase, after failing to obey commands to stop.
But the body-cam video showed Adam stopping as the officer shouts after him, turning and putting his hands up, with no sign of a weapon. The boy is then shot in the chest from a short distance away by the officer, identified on Thursday as Eric Stillman, 34, who has been with the department since August 2015.
The footage goes on to focus on what appears to be a gun on the ground close to where Adam was shot. Prosecutors in Roman’s case said it was a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and that Adam’s hand tested positive for gunshot residue.
Dozens of residents gathered in Little Village on Thursday night to express their outrage after the footage was released.
Thursday’s protests in Little Village, a community of 75,000 people with about 80% of Mexican descent, and elsewhere in the city, were mostly peaceful. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that a group of about 50 met in Millennium Park and marched to police headquarters in downtown.
One activist, the former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green, tore down police tape cordoning off the building and demanded Lightfoot’s resignation over the shooting, the newspaper said.
“Lori Lightfoot herself said, ‘Oh, we need to figure out why he had a gun. He shouldn’t have been out there’,” Green said.
“Now you want to say let’s calm the city down. But when do you say let’s calm these killings down that the police department are doing?”
Among the protesters in a group that marched through the adjacent community of West Loop was Gloria Pinex, an activist whose 27-year-old son Darius was shot dead by Chicago police in 2011. Her family later received a wrongful death settlement from the city.
“I want to say to the momma, I’m here with you in solidarity. We will fight with you all the way,” Pinex said, according to ABC7 News.
As the protests continued, news broke of the shooting death of another teenager in Little Village, a 17-year-old girl named as Lydia Jimenez, who was shot in a car in the West Side area. No arrests have been made.
Lightfoot did not talk at the press conference about previous reports about Adam holding a gun, as prosecutors charging Roman have alleged. The mayor did confirm that there was “no evidence whatsoever that Adam Toledo shot at the police”.
The Toledo family, who viewed the video on Tuesday, originally asked for the recording not to be immediately released to the public.
“We acknowledge that the release of this video is the first step in the process toward the healing of the family, the community and our city,” read a joint statement made by Lightfoot and the Toledo family’s lawyers.
Adam had “a big imagination and curiosity”, loved animals and riding his bicycle and had a fascination with zombies, his mother, Elizabeth Toledo, said in the statement.
“He even had this zombie apocalypse bag packed and ready to go. May he rest in peace,” she said.
Increasing police accountability was a key part of Lightfoot’s election platform when she was running for mayor. She has served in the role since 2019.
Agencies contributed reporting