Chicago Teachers Union, Jesse Jackson Launch Robocall to Urge Black Friday Unrest over Laquan McDonald

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On Thursday thousands of Chicago residents had their Thanksgiving interrupted by a robocall featuring the voice of Jesse Jackson, Sr. and sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union urging Chicagoans to join them in disrupting the Windy City’s Black Friday shopping day downtown.

Earlier in the day Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis asked members to join activist Chicago Catholic Priest Father Michael Pfleger and others in Friday’s protests. But the union went even further than mere press releases by funding a Thursday night robocall featuring Jesse Jackson, Sr. and CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey urging Chicagoans to eschew shopping to attend a Black Friday protest march down the “Magnificent Mile,” Chicago’s nickname for retail-heavy Michigan Avenue.

“Join us Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, at 11 AM,” Jackson says on the call, “on Michigan and Wacker Drive to march down the Magnificent Mile to express our outrage and our sense of dignity.”

The calls began at around 6:30 PM on Thursday, but Chicago TV news stations all featured stories on Thursday evening noting that residents of the city were annoyed by these robocalls featuring Jackson and his exhortations for Black Friday unrest.

Chicago’s WGN News, for instance, reported that some viewers said they were upset the calls interrupted their Thanksgiving, and Chicago’s ABC station also reported that Chicagoans felt that the robocalls flooding their homes on Thanksgiving night were inappropriate.

One angry resident told ABC 7 that she didn’t appreciate the interruption during her Thanksgiving holiday.

“It was very aggravating,” the woman told Chicago’s ABC affiliate, “you know, it’s Thanksgiving and you’re going to call and try and get these people to come out and support your cause. And I just don’t like the fact that my phone number is being accesses when I pay to keep it unlisted.”

After complaints over the calls hit the media, Chicago Teachers Union spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin issued a non-apology statement to the media, saying, “I am sorry some people may be upset, but you can imagine how so many of us feel to have watched a child riddled with bullets.

Gadlin is, of course, speaking about the police dashcam video of the 2014 death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer, the latter of whom was only this week indicted for murder.

McDonald’s death has sparked three days of protests in the Windy City.

The Chicago Teacher’s union has formally joined the protests, with union president Karen Lewis lambasting city officials for taking a year to address the teenager’s death.

As the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Thursday, Lewis attended a press conference hosted by the Rev. Jesse Jackson who prayed with her in Grant Park.

“It is time to turn our pain into power,” Lewis said before going on to urging CTU members to “express their outrage and dignity.”

Lewis hopes to leverage the protests into more support for demands of pay raises for Chicago’s teachers.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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