MICHIGAN AVENUE SHUTDOWN:
A MOMENT IN BLACK HISTORY
by Mark Finley
11/ 28 / 15
Congratulations my people, because HISTORY WAS MADE in Chicago on November 27, 2015 by staging an economic SHUTDOWN on Michigan Avenue, known as the iconic Magnificent Mile.
The shutdown & rally was originally organized and coordinated by community organizers and activists; Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Maze Jackson, and Mark Carter.
The shutdown was to begin at 11am, and was to last until 7pm. on Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive (the Chicago River) and Chicago Avenue at the historic Water Tower.
The object was to mobilize and channel our energy at this national iconic strip of commerce to minimize if not halt the flow of money on one of the biggest shopping days during the holidays to bring attention to the injustices centered around the execution of Laquan McDonald and the fact that it took 400 days for the bastard police officer to be bought to justice, and the corrupted judicial and political system in Chicago and the Nation.
It was suggested that people (protestors) prepare by bringing a lunch and NOT TO PATRONIZE any establishment on this strip during these hours.
Word on the march reached me Thursday, the day before while listening to radio station WVON, and I immediately decided to participate. I arrived at Michigan & Wacker at 10:45am, as the crowd was gathering. A few youth leaders were speaking at a podium set up flush with the banks of the Chicago River.
The march began on time at 11am. as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman Danny Davis & others led the crowd northbound on Michigan Ave. I joined in the march towards the Water Tower holding up my BUY BLACK ALLIANCE sign as photographers and videogrpahers took my picture and video taped others and myself on the entire route.
Yes, you had the usual grandstanders there politicizing for their agendas, like alderman’s and other political candidates, for which the list consist of the whose who in Chicago politics, a list too long to mention in this piece.
I was there for two reasons, 1. To show my support by standing up for our treatment and injustices in this country, and 2. Representing my organizations, the BUY BLACK ALLIANCE and the SILENT DOLLARS INC. movement to show our youth that we are here for them, and to CONTINUE TO SHUT THIS COUNTRY DOWN and to BUYYYY BLACK!
I was very proud of the youth (millenials) that that showed up that took a very strong position on the treatment and killing of our people by racist police and the flawed justice system, but the problem I had with some demonstrators is that a certain group of individuals (I forgot what organization they represented) disrespected Rev. Jesse Jackson by interrupting his speaking and leading the crowd in prayer when we gathered at the steps of the water tower by shouting mostly through bullhorns “We don’t need Prayer” and questions of his loyalty to the community.
They also tried to tear down the P.A. system to keep the crowd from hearing him. I was close enough to be involved in the scuffle to the left of the steps where these individuals began pulling the plugs on the P.A. system and attempting to pull the monitors down to the ground.
This incident was more than likely the best example where the purpose for us all coming together was temporarily lost and or attempted to be diverted, because these individuals claimed that the leadership gathered on the top steps of the water tower, included Jesse Jackson, Rev Meeks, Chuy Garcia & others, had sold the black community out years ago, and continue to do so, while pleasing white folks.
My take on this disruption is… they should have been wise and mature enough to allow the group of individuals to speak (denying their right to free speech) regardless of their point of view, as the city and the law had allowed them (these disruptive individuals) to assemble in protest, and to march for our cause. If they had a bone to pick with Rev Jackson & others, they should take it to Operation Push, or where these leaders office resides, and or utilize the platforms they have to express their discontent.
One theory on why this minor incident occurred is that they chose to do this at this time because cameras were rolling for their voices to be heard on national and local television. Another theory that was mentioned by other protestors is that our oppressors or the oppositions paid these individuals to interrupt and break the focus and momentum of the shutdown, because of the magnitude that was mobilized by the youth, which they do not want to happen anyone.
Let there be no doubt, we successfully SHUTDOWN Michigan Avenue! Many, in fact, most stores had to close between 1 and 2pm, including the iconic Apple Store, The Water Tower Place, The Levis Store, Nike Store, and The Disney Store.
When I took a bathroom break, I went into the Walgreen’s near Wacker Drive to use their bathroom and the entire store was virtually empty! Now you never see a Walgreen’s store empty in any part of the city on any given day, let alone on the magnificent mile- especially during BLACK FRIDAY!
Yes, this shutdown was very effective! The media had to report that there was an economic impact but so far, the effects are downplayed until there is an accurate figure on how much money was lost. My bet is this figure will be in the millions.
Shopping was not stopped entirely during this 8-hour period as we saw shoppers with bags in their hands here and there (many of which had shopped before the shutdown took full effect), but it was minimized significantly. Some stores got slick and opened their side doors to slip shoppers in, but the protestors saw this and quickly formed groups of human chains to block these doors as well.
After my restroom break, I continued to march as the crowd marched back & forth the entire day. Suddenly, my emotions reached a peak as I decided to join the human chains and took my place in front of at least two stores that needed extra people.
We began chanting the popular chants of the day… "NO JUSTICE, NO WAY, NO SHOPING TODAY", the familiar “16 SHOTS”, and more.
The magnitude of protestors and the unity was so strong that many shoppers were scared to leave the stores after the protestors blocked the entrances with the human chains. As I stood in front of one store with our chain- locked arm to arm, the workers asked us if we would allow the shoppers to leave. I told my protest comrades to allow them to do so, so we parted temporarily to allow them to leave, and the store employees thanked me.
The frustration on the faces of the Lilly white-white-high society shoppers and foreign shoppers was clearly visible as they perused the blocks only to see human chains of all races blocking the stores as they searched for an open store. Yes, I admit that tickled me as I was also filled with pride and extra energy. I became even more energized and overwhelmed with joy as I looked all around- across the street- and up & down Michigan Avenue to see every store blocked by human chains, as I have never ever seen such a sight in my life. I am very proud to be a black man, but that day, Friday, had escalated my pride to a level I’ve not felt in a few years.
Now to be fair, many protestors in the human chains were not angels in this shutdown either. Legally you have to move out the way to allow people to enter the stores, but many of the protestors failed to do so as they refused to move and allow entrance- even when some frustrated shoppers tried to barge or push their way through the human chains.
The purpose of the human chains was to induce awareness to shoppers not familiar with our purpose, to show unification, solidarity and also to intimidate people not to enter the inverted picket lines, but not to deny entrance to stores by force.
However, there’s a much bigger picture and point to be made here about the MICHIGAN AVENUE SHUTDOWN.
We must NOT loose sight on the HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE of the RALLY / SHUTDOWN!
Never in the history of Chicago, or perhaps any other city in the United States where our people came together peacefully, organized, that targeted big business on an iconic economic commerce strip to form human chains in the front of literally every store to block anyone from entering to shop. We’ve seen the marches & bus boycotts during the civil rights movement in the 60s, and there was the economic Florida boycotts on the hotel and convention industry, but as far as I can remember, no stores were blocked to prevent white folks from shopping.
Also, I’ve never seen children as young as 9 years old carrying signs while marching with their parents and or grandparents. I’ve never seen elderly and handicapped, some with walkers & wheelchairs in the numbers observed as well. Chicago’s black community truly showed up Friday. The media said the numbers participating was in the hundreds, but if you were there, it is obvious that there were at least one to two thousand people as the crowd grew every hour until around 3pm.
Out of all the critiquing and dissecting of this SHUTDOWN by the talking heads you hear as in our leadership, on the radio, television, or shall I say Media, there was, and or is currently, no mention or acknowledgement of the historical significance of this epic event! That is what they should be relaying to our masses, especially our youth!
I’ve heard negative talk about the different factions participating in this event, but throughout our history, that’s how events like this are successful. Despite all the factions, groups and coalitions present for their agendas, these groups and Black parents came together in ONE MARCH to peacefully slow down commerce on one of most famous shopping avenues in the world while the Nation, if not the entire world watched, and black America, especially Blacks in Chicago should me damn proud and commended for that!
Too all you idiots, haters and paid disrupters out there playing down this event. See the light, get a life, and focus on the positive and not focus so much on the negative, because now you will never break our stride or confidence! You are now DEFEATED!
The millennial’s were fantastic as in leading, executing, directing, and had our support fully! In fact, many of them were there well after the proposed end time of the shutdown at 7pm, as I watched them on local news at 10pm.
If shoppers, mostly white folks, wanted a black Friday, we gave and showed them the real BLACK FRIDAY!
As the word spreads on the success of the shutdown, the confidence level will rise in our people and more folks will join us for the next shutdown targeted for State Street as rumors of more shutdowns are circulating through the community, and I strongly urge us to do so!
Ironically, while traversing the shutdown, I thought about staging another shutdown on State Street, the next biggest economic hub for commerce in Chicago.
In addition, due to the success of the shutdown, it’s been reported that other shutdowns or rallies either occurred or are planned in cities across the nation, and the grand finale should be SILENT DOLLARS in June!
Let’s not allow white America and the media to lessen this MONUMENTAL HISTORICAL ACHEVEMENT by black folks! LET EVERYONE KNOW— your kids and grandkids, your neighbors and associates that HISTORY, particularly BLACK HISTORY WAS MADE in CHIAGO on Friday, November 27, 2015, the day we stood up to the establishment, took a stand and SHUTDOWN MICHIGAN AVENUE!
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