Police and city departments conduct safety drill in Central Business District

By K'Von Jackson and Zachary Clingenpeel

Police cars and other city affiliated vehicles position themselves in high traffic areas downtown. K’Von Jackson

Update: Story updated at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 to reflect more recent protest activity in Downtown Chicago.

The city prepared for more protests on the Magnificent Mile Saturday evening challenging abuse of force by law enforcement, days after police conducted a safety drill spanning downtown and neighboring communities, blocking streets and redirecting pedestrian traffic.

The Chicago Police Department, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Streets and Sanitation, organized Thursday, Aug. 27 to “mitigate risk to the Central Business District,” according to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Police set up roadblocks with bikes and metal barricades to halt any attempt for protesters to cross the bridge. K’Von Jackson 

The area for the drill, which took place between 6 and 9 p.m. and was led by OEMC, was bounded by Division Street to the north, 18th Street to the south, Clark Street to the west and Lakeshore Drive to the east.

The public safety drill was not in response to any expected activity and was “strictly part of ongoing precautionary efforts,” according to an OEMC statement from Executive Director Rich Guidice. These efforts include “[ensuring] the safety of large public gatherings,” as stated in a Wednesday, Aug. 26 media advisory.

The drill comes weeks after rounds of looting in the downtown area, causing property damage and the temporary closure of Columbia’s campus, as reported by the Chronicle Aug. 10.

The drill included increased police presence, multiple helicopters flying over the scene and salt trucks from the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Police on bicycles block off the North Wabash Avenue bridge over the Chicago River in connection to a safety drill in the area. Zachary Clingenpeel

Protesters with The No More Foundation, Refuse Fascism and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA gathered at the Wabash Avenue Bridge to challenge the safety drill where they were met by police and bridge barricades.

Protesters hold banners demanding reform in the justice system. K’Von Jackson
Protesters representing The No More Foundation, Refuse Fascism, Mutual Aid Chi in Solidarity and The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA gather at North Wabash Avenue and East Wacker Drive in response to the city’s public safety drill. Zachary Clingenpeel

Troy Gaston, of Mutual Aid Chi in Solidarity, a community organization, said the group was out to “show solidarity for other sister cities when it comes to Black men being shot unarmed by white officers.”

Gaston said Mutual Aid Chi wanted to challenge the idea of the drill to see how “sufficient it was [in] protecting peaceful protesters.”

A police helicopter flies over the downtown area as protesters gather in response to the Chicago Police Department’s planned safety drill. Zachary Clingenpeel

As of publication, OEMC officials were unavailable to provide further information on the success of the drill and whether another one is planned.