Protesters demand racial justice as police leaders gather in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A protest in Chicago ended in several arrests as police leaders from around the world gathered Saturday at McCormick Place for an annual conference. Demonstrators are demanding racial justice.

Dozens of people were arrested as a result of the protests, most of them from a sit-in in the middle of the street. Their goal was to disrupt the largest gathering of public safety officials of its kind.

Several hundred protesters marched from Chicago Police headquarters at 35th and Michigan to McCormick Place Saturday afternoon, where the International Association of Chiefs of Police gathered this weekend.

The conference is the largest of its kind nationwide, with over 14,000 public safety officers in attendance. The protest was organized by community organizations calling on police departments nationwide to change the way they engage with communities of color.

"What we're looking for today is to have our voices heard, to show the coalition of voices, to show that black lives matter, to make our voices heard to this very powerful organization that sets policies," said protester Maria Hadden. "We want less money for policing and more money for community services."

The march was largely peaceful. Once at McCormick Place, a protester took down a U.S. flag to replace it with one that read, "Unapologetically Black." That flag was promptly removed.

A sit-in was also staged by another group, blocking the road at Cermak and Indiana. Police eventually arrested about a dozen protesters after police say they would not get up. Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy checked in on the situation before heading inside to deliver his remarks at the opening ceremony.

"We're in a tough time for policing right now and I believe we're at a crossroads. I don't think this climate has ever existed in the history of American policing," he said. "But at the same time I honestly believe this scrutiny and this environment presents an opportunity for us."

The conference continues through Tuesday, when President Barack Obama will be in Chicago to address the gathering.
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