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Photos: Hundreds March On Father's Day To Protest 'Not Guilty' Verdict In Philando Castile Killing

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 19, 2017 2:00PM

More than 200 people gathered and marched in Washington Park on Father’s Day afternoon to protest the acquittal of the cop who shot and killed Philando Castile, and to honor Ronald “Ronnieman” Johnson and other fathers were fatally shot by police.

Demonstrators in the peaceful protest shouted chants such as “The whole damn system is guilty” and “What side are you on? The freedom side” as the crowd marched north on Martin Luther King Drive, from E 53rd Street, at the western border of Washington Park.

A Father’s Day event intended to honor those who had been killed by police had been planned ahead of the verdict in the Castille trial—which saw recently fired Minnesota cop Jeronimo Yanez acquitted on manslaughter and other charges in the 2016 shooting death of Castile. But the event took on its added dimension after Friday’s widely decried verdict, Kofi Ademola of Black Lives Matters, told the crowd ahead of the march.

The march was hosted by Black Lives Matter Chicago and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and was supported by numerous other activist organizations, including Assata’s Daughters and the #LetUsBreathCollective. Organizers were in attendance from the Women’s March Chicago, which urged followers to participate ahead of the protest.

The rally before the march was held at East 53rd Street and Martin Luther King Drive, near where Ronald “Ronnieman” Johnson, a father of five, was shot in the back and killed by officer George Hernandez in 2014. (Hernandez was not charged.) Johnson’s mother, Dorothy Holmes, was among the speakers—who also included Frank Chapman (NAARPR) and historian Barbara Ransby—and she lamented the death of her son at the hand of “a trigger-happy racist cop.”

“[Johnson]’s life did matter,” she said. “It mattered to a lot of people.”

"We live in a racist society that completely and totally refuses to give black people justice," said Chapman.

The Father’s Day holiday added an extra poignancy to the day. During one of the alarming 46 times in which he was pulled over for traffic stops throughout his life, Philando Castile was shot in a suburb of St. Paul, MN, by Yanez as the daughter of his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, sat in the backseat. Castile told Yanez he had a permit to carry a handgun and was reaching for his ID when he was shot. Reynolds live-streamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting, which prompted waves of protest in Minnesota and beyond.

Marchers on Sunday said they were disappointed by the acquittal but not surprised, even despite circumstances that seemed to point to a potential conviction.

“Even in a situation that seemed cut and dried, caught on camera, plus—and I don’t play into the idea that if a person does something wrong in their life they deserve to be murdered—but there was nothing of that here. But we still got a not guilty verdict—and it’s not surprising,” said Ryan Watson, a West Side native.

Demonstrators marched from 53rd Street and King Drrive to a Real Men Cook charity event at Hales Franciscan High School (4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave.) before eventually marching back to Washington Park. The return included a stop at Dyett High School, where activist Jitu Brown spoke movingly about the 2015 hunger strike that helped keep the school’s doors open in face of opposition from the city.

Related: Thousands Protest In St. Paul After Cop Who Killed Philando Castile Is Acquitted