GRANT PARK — After speaking Friday at a Grant Park protest, Miracle Boyd heard firecrackers popping and hustled down Columbus Drive, broadcasting on Facebook Live.
She stopped when she saw a friend in a verbal altercation with police. Then, she said, she spotted another protester being arrested and approached him, asking him for his name and date of birth to get him legal assistance.
Then two Chicago Police officers approached her, one with dark gray facial hair and sunglasses.
“He walked up to me and smacked me,” Boyd said Sunday. “I don’t know if the phone hit me in the mouth, I don’t know if his hand hit me in the mouth.
“But the way that I was recording, I think that he tried to smack the phone in my hand and he hit me at the same time, and the phone hit me in the mouth, and it knocked my tooth out and I was bleeding.”
Boyd, 18, an organizer with anti-violence group GoodKids MadCity, was badly injured by the officer in the aftermath of a demonstration organized by Black and Indigenous community leaders.
A GoFundMe launched by activist Anthony Clark and approved by GoodKids MadCity raised nearly $84,000 in less than two days before halting donations. Clark originally had hoped to collect $50,000 to support Boyd’s medical, dental and mental health treatment.
The night Boyd was injured ended in several clashes between demonstrators and police, who deployed pepper spray to push back crowds who had tried to pull down a statue of Christopher Columbus in the southern corner of the park.
Video showed an officer swinging at someone with his left hand, who can be seen staggering backward and out of the frame. GoodKids MadCity identified the person as Boyd.
Boyd said she dropped her phone and backed away from the encounter in pain. She said she wanted to get the badge number of the officer so she could file a formal report, but her friends urged her to leave.
“I was just crying hysterically. I looked on the ground for my phone, and it was gone and I just ran away,” she said.
GoodKids MadCity tweeted photos of her injuries, showing a chipped tooth and bruising and abrasions around her mouth.
“The Chicago Police Department has initiated an investigation into this matter,” a department spokesperson said in an email.
“The Chicago Police Department (CPD) strives to treat all individuals our officers encounter with respect. We do not tolerate misconduct of any kind and if any wrongdoing is discovered, officers will be held accountable. Anyone who feels they have been mistreated by a CPD officer is encouraged to call 311 and file a complaint with (Civilian Office of Police Accountability), who will investigate allegations of misconduct.”
Essence Gatheright, who was at the protest and is a 16-year-old member of Chicago Freedom School’s youth leadership board, helped Boyd get medical attention at the Freedom School after she was hit.
“Her teeth came out, it was really bad,” Gatheright said. “She was bleeding, she kept crying and sobbing. It was a really messed up situation. … We were able to walk her and others to the school and provide her with support and make sure she got home safely.”
Boyd said she was treated for her injuries at Holy Cross Hospital and was discharged the same night.
Block Club Chicago photographer Colin Boyle was also assaulted by an officer while following police orders to leave the scene and holding up his press badge.
CBS Chicago journalist Marissa Parra said an officer used a baton to swat her phone out of her hand while she was reporting on the scene. WBEZ journalist Linda Lutton said her two daughters were pepper sprayed and had their bike, roller skates and bags taken by officers.
Several local officials condemned Chicago Police for using force to prevent protesters from damaging the statue, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
In separate statements Saturday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown criticized “violent” protesters and did not directly respond to specific allegations of police violence. Lightfoot said those who “believe” they were mistreated should file complaints with COPA.
On Saturday, partly motivated by what happened at Grant Park, protesters converged on Lightfoot’s block in Logan Square, but were prevented from demonstrating near the mayor’s home by a phalanx of officers.
In the day since her attack has attracted national attention, Boyd has been bombarded with messages of hate and support.
She said she’s received multiple threats on social media from people who think she’s the “bad guy” who verbally harassed the officers. Boyd said she never spoke to the officer who struck her.
“This was real raw footage of literally what was going on Downtown,” Boyd said. “I was not throwing things at the police … so people are like, you know, they’re like making a big deal, because I was the person in the video. I really don’t want to hear it anymore. I’ve become overwhelmed.”
Boyd said she also received many messages of support.
The Black Student Union at DePaul University, where Boyd will be a freshman this fall, released a statement Saturday offering support for her.
“Miracle, we are so sorry for what you’ve had to endure,” group leaders wrote. “We are sorry that the unjust forces that rule this city have personally hurt you. We vow to protect you, and every Black student not only at DePaul but in our community here. We are here to listen to you, and to work with you so that this may not occur again.”
That was uplifting, Boyd said.
“It makes me feel empowered,” Boyd said. “I haven’t even walked in the door. It’s amazing they’re already supporting me.”
Well wishers also have turned out in droves to help Boyd through the GoFundMe campaign.
Because they collected so much more than they expected, Boyd said she is making plans for the rest of the donations. She wants to devote a large portion to a therapy fund for Black and Brown women who have experienced trauma. She wants another portion to fund a youth group that feeds homeless residents throughout the city.
“I feel, like, surreal. Everyone who has given to the GoFundMe, you made an impact,” Boyd said. “If we can invest in the right things, we can change things.”
Boyd said doesn’t like the recognition she’s received because of the incident. She’s trying to process what happened and the reactions to it.
“I feel like I have to move differently,” said Boyd. “I’m trying to fathom the awareness this has brought. And it’s like, I feel like I don’t know how much of an impact I caused yet because I’m so numb right now I really feel nothing.”
Still, Boyd said she feels motivated to use her platform to advocate for causes she supports and use this momentum to create change.
“There’s no real evidence that shows that police keep communities safe,” she said. “This is the time to change the world.”
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