What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like

With Rahm Emanuel and Anita Alvarez under fire, a jokey Facebook event spawned a protest that temporarily shut the city down.

Photographer Matthew Avignone

This August, thousands took to the streets of Guatemala to denounce the corruption of the country's president, Otto Pérez Molina. They were assembled there because one woman—Lucía Mendizábal—made a Facebook event. Thousands joined online, then a ton of them actually showed up IRL. Molina's protest eventually ended up toppling her government.

Rachel Brown, an NYU student from Albany, started a similar Facebook event of her own last week, calling for the resignation of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. Brown's event didn't have the same success rate as Molina's but the results were still pretty staggering. Hundreds protested for over five hours in downtown Chicago Wednesday asking Emanuel and Alvarez to step down in response to their fumbled handling of the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

After a city-wide walkout at noon, the protesters looped around the entire city. They blocked off a major intersection that put most of the city into gridlock. Photographer Matthew Avignone was there. Check out his photos of Chicagoans below, along with his first hand account of what it was like in the crowd.

What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like

MATTHEW AVIGNONE: For about 45 minutes, protestors shut down the entrance to the interstate to the city. Three or four interstates meet around that same area, so if one place gets backed up, everything does. It had ripples across the city. I saw some of the tweets people were sending, like: "I wish Rahm would just resign already so I can get home."

In comparison to say the Black Friday protest, there were many more people involved. The sentiment was pretty much the same—for Rahm to get out.

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Everyone who was there was marching around for over four hours without stopping. There was a lot of love going around, because we're in solidarity with each other, but people are fed up. Not everyone can get out on the streets and show it, but we wanted to come together to say that we can, and to show that when we're upset about something, we're going to make some noise.

Since the release of the video of Laquan [Mcdonald], the protests have been taking place not only weekly, but daily.

What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like

The moment where we blocked the interstate—in that moment, everyone was in a circle, taking a knee, and having a moment of silence for all those who have been lost. That was pretty amazing to me, to see this group of people not only being in the middle of this interstate, but also coming together and taking a knee. That was pretty special to me.

In that photo, we are on the base of Michigan avenue, right past the bridge that goes over the Chicago river. You see the police just before that—the police were actually really great. I think it's because we were a really mixed crowd of protesters. When we got up to Michigan Avenue, they were adamant about us not going. There was some conflict, but after some time we were able to get through.

What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like

This one guy was carrying skeletons over his shoulders the whole way, and he laid down on the ground and started chanting into the megaphone. It was hilarious because everyone was getting pretty exhausted at that point.

It wasn't until the end of the protest, around four or five o'clock, that they were able to disconnect two parts of the protest. One group wanted to go one way, and the other group wanted to go another way. It took a long time and they got stuck. They took two people into custody but released them after an hour.

What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like
What Chicago’s #ResignRahm Protests Really Looked Like