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Video: Black Journalist Describes Being 'Tossed Around' By Chicago Police During Protests

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Jan 16, 2016 4:23PM

by Kate Shepherd and Rachel Cromidas

A Sun-Times reporter recently described how police officers tossed her and other black reporters around "like a sack of rice" while they covered a high-profile anti-police violence protest on Michigan Avenue last year.

At a Wednesday panel discussion on how journalists cover the Black Lives Matter movement, Maudlyne Ihejirika said she saw Chicago police officers become physically violent with local activists and young black people during one post-Thanksgiving protest following the release of the video of police fatally shooting Laquan McDonald.

Protesters had been peacefully blocking the entrances to several high-end clothing stores on the Magnificent Mile during one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Hours into the protest, after protesters arrived at the entrance to Victoria's Secret, Ihejirika said the police officers began grabbing and pushing protesters away from the doors. After one cop grabbed and pushed anti-violence activist Ameena Matthews of CeaseFire, who is recovering from cancer, and another protester grabbed the officer's arm in response, police began grabbing everyone around:

officers just started grabbing people, and they grabbed me and they tossed me like I was a sack of rice, and they grabbed Lolly Bowean of the Tribune and they tossed her like a sack of rice. They grabbed Kathy [Chaney, of WBEZ], pushed Kathy, and Kathy went stumbling back. We were like, "We're media, you can't do that," and the officer told me, "Get out of my face."

If that was the way he treated me and what he thought of me, I knew what he thought of the protesters, and I knew what he wanted to do with the protesters, even though he was not allowed to.

Ihejirika was joined on the panel, hosted by the Chicago Headline Club and the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, by WBEZ reporter Chaney, the editorial director of City Bureau Darryl Holliday, and Damon Williams, a local activist.

The panelists discussed the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement following the fatal shooting of Travyon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida nearly four years ago, and how the Laquan McDonald video has been a game changer since it became public in November. The video has made the Chicago media scrutinize the police in a way they've never done before, Ihejirika said:

One of the things that I have been struck by is how the realization post-Laquan McDonald of just how complicit the media itself, ourselves, have been in this whole issue. We as the media put the microphone up to the police spokesman's mouth and say, "What happened in this shooting?" The police spokesman spits out the party line, we go back to our news entity, and we write it or we broadcast it.

That was pre-Laquan McDonald. We were completely complicit, and I can say that unequivocally because of what we learned in Laquan Mcdonald. Go back and read the clips, we asked what happened, they told us the young man turned, went toward [the officer], he feared for his life, he shot him. We went back, wrote the story, and everyone moved on. Today we find out it is a bold faced lie.

And it has not only been Laquan. In the wake of Laquan, there has been a slow drip, drip, drip of revelations of new cases—new only in that they are new to us, but they existed for the past several years, winding their way through federal courts because someone said, no, my loved one did not have a gun, and they filed a civil suit. But the media had already written the police party line.

You can watch the entire panel, courtesy of Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV).