A group of 60 to 70 people protesting the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died May 25 while police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while arresting him, shut down the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road briefly on Tuesday evening during a peaceful march along Cermak Road from the Cicero Town Hall.
Floyd’s death ignited a wave of protests against police brutality against people of color across the country and even internationally. The peaceful demonstration Tuesday stood in stark contrast to the violence and looting that engulfed parts of Chicago and its suburbs, including North Riverside, beginning on Saturday.
Protesters got an escort by police, who maintained a good deal of distance and allowed the group of protesters, who ranged in age from teens to middle age adults, to walk down the westbound lanes of Cermak Road to Harlem Avenue where, at about 6 p.m., the protesters formed a circle and then knelt in silence on the asphalt for nine minutes in 93-degree heat.
After the nine minute silent protest, they stood up and circled the Harlem/Cermak intersection a few times, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police” as officers stood quietly around them and blocked traffic.
“They were fully supportive, they were working, talking to us, engaging us, checking in on us,” said Esteban Rodriguez, chairman of Rizoma Collective, an independent political and social justice organization in the Cicero-Berwyn area, who appeared to be one of the leaders of the peaceful protest. “And that, to me, is what I consider partnership between the people that they serve and protect and us, with them, feel their safety.”
Rodriguez said the majority of the marchers were “concerned residents who really want to take care of their neighborhood.”
Motorists on Harlem Avenue sympathetically refrained from honking horns as traffic lights cycled through from red to green several times while protesters occupied the typically busy seven-lane intersection.
After a few times around the intersection, the marchers then turned and headed back eastbound on Cermak Road, accompanied by police.