Black Lives Matter activists marched up and down Burlington, Vermont's Church Street Marketplace on Black Friday, as the busy retail and dining destination was hosting holiday celebrations, including a parade with Santa Claus.
The demonstrators chanted on the sidelines of the parade, and vowed not to shop on Black Friday, because shopping is not nearly as important to them as their concerns over citizen deaths around the country that followed encounters with police.
The protest was held, organizers said, in response to this week's release of police cruiser camera footage showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot by Chicago police 16 times in October, 2014.
"We weren't here to stop their shopping," protest participant Mary Brown-Guillory of the Champlain Valley Area NAACP said of shoppers on Church Street, before listing names of several other people around the U.S. who died after encountering law enforcement officers. "But Jamar [Clark] can't shop today. Michael Brown can't shop. Sanda Bland can't shop. There's so many injustices going on, and we're here to use our voices and our energy to call attention to those."
Marge Alden, who was giving miniature horse rides to families as part of the Church Street celebration, said she appreciates the issues the activists raised. However, she was not happy with the execution of the demonstration.
"He is very sensitive to noise," Alden said of her miniature horse, adding that he became startled because of drumming and other sounds from the protest. "I think there is a time and a place--not Christmas, so much."
The activists did find support along their route.
"They weren't being violent or acting out, they're trying to spread a message," observed Shawn Galbreath, who came with her children and grandchildren to enjoy the pre-Christmas atmosphere on Church Street. "And I think it's a message we all need to hear, and I think it's a conversation we need to have with our families."
The Church Street Marketplace told necn encounters like the ones on Black Friday between shoppers and protestors come with the territory when a retail and dining district is in the heart of a vibrant city.
"Sometimes, democracy is hard," said Ron Redmond, the executive director of the Church Street Marketplace. "We have a shopping experience here that I think, still, will be really positive for people, and they'll also get to see the First Amendment in action."
Black Lives Matter activists pledged to keep speaking out through the holidays and beyond.