SlutWalk: Chicago police arrest anti-sexual assault protesters
Police officers pile on a SlutWalk participant after the confrontation escalates. | Liz Baudler / Windy City Times (used with permission)

CHICAGO — On Saturday afternoon, peaceful protestors marching as part of the Chicago SlutWalk clashed with police in an incident that led to the eventual arrest of five individuals. The annual SlutWalk is an event aimed at commemorating victims of sexual assault and speaking out against the ongoing rape culture epidemic. While attendees are encouraged to wear whatever they feel comfortable in, many show up in revealing clothing as an act of defying the respectability politics that are attributed to the slut-shaming that victims of sexual violence experience in the aftermath of their trauma.

Chicago is also a space of empowerment for many survivors of sexual violence. The city has hosted the SlutWalk for several consecutive years, with organizers rotating in and out of leadership roles. For the most part, the event has found itself outside the limelight of controversy. This year, however, police arrested and brutalized five marchers during a run-in, including three trans/gender non-conforming demonstrators who were attending the rally. Volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild’s Chicago Legal Observer Program and other eyewitnesses were at the scene when the arrests took place.

One rally participant, Red (they/them pronouns), said that the police grew increasingly hostile after the narrow spacing of the sidewalk forced some of the marchers to spill over onto the street. Red is currently an organizer of “Support Ho(s)e,” a campaign that facilitates the Justice for Alisha Walker campaign. They were present when police first began grabbing people at the march. “People were dragged and kicked across the concrete,” Red said. “They punched and de-masked one of the SlutWalk organizers before taking them away.”

Several of the participants in the crowd witnessed the incident as it unfolded and began to shout at police to release the detainees. “It was apparent that they had already started to identify organizers because they grabbed them first,” according to Red. The most egregious arrest, however, was against the last person detained, a trans/gender non-conforming member of the community. The individual, who shall remain unnamed for privacy purposes, was wearing nothing more than a pink tutu and a lace bra. Red said, “They were stomping on their back, and stepping on their head and legs.”

According to updates posted on the Chicago SlutWalk and the National Lawyers Guild’s (NLG) pages, it took almost 24 hours for the Chicago Police Department to release all five detainees arrested at the march. The NLG worked closely with organizers to ensure that all arrested demonstrators had legal support and resources. Three of those arrested were released with tickets, one was charged with a misdemeanor, and the fifth is being charged with a felony for “aggravated battery to a police officer.” The Chicago Community Bond Fund, an organization that supports individuals who cannot afford to pay the bonds themselves, was able to post $10,000 of the $100,000 bail fee for the fifth detainee.

In an interview with People’s World, Donna Gary, one of the leading organizers for SlutWalk Chicago, discussed ways that people can support SlutWalk organizers in the next several days. Gary emphasized putting pressure on the office of Kim Fox, the Cook County State’s Attorney, to drop all charges against those arrested by calling and flooding her inbox, as well as being present for court support.

Furthermore, organizers are warning any participants with video and photographic evidence not to post on Facebook. Participants are being directed to download and send all footage from the protest to the NLG instead, (Chicago.lo.program@gmail.com) with “SlutWalk Chi Police Brutality” in the subject header.

Chicago-based activist rights groups have already spoken out against the violent behavior of the Chicago Police against peaceful demonstrators at the SlutWalk. The Trans Liberation Collective released a statement on their Facebook page, saying in part, “We further condemn the outrageous arrests and detentions of five marchers, some of whom are TRANS and gender non-conforming, and especially the retaliatory and ridiculous felony charge currently being levied against the one trans marcher who remains in detention.”

Currently, the Chicago chapter of the NLG is handling legal matters regarding the situation. Until the case appears before a court, organizers are hoping to bring more light to what happened in order to pressure prosecutors to drop all charges against the protesters.


CONTRIBUTOR

Michelle Zacarias
Michelle Zacarias

Michelle Zacarias is a staff writer at People's World. A graduate of the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Zacarias has invested her time in raising awareness on issues of social justice and equality. She has written and conducted research in several parts of the world; most recently Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she presented on disability awareness at the U.S. Consulate. Michelle self identifies as multi-marginalized: as a Latina, a woman of color and a person with disabilities. She considers her experiences a privilege, one that she hopes to use as a platform for spreading socio-political consciousness. In her spare time Michelle enjoys drinking pricey wines and watching old school zombie flicks.  

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