Chicagoans stand with Baltimore against police violence

CHICAGO – Peaceful demonstrators gathered at a police station here last night, giving voice to millions across the country who don’t want the media’s sensational coverage of events in Baltimore to detract from what they see as the real problem of police violence against people of color, particularly youth, in the nation’s cities.

The demonstration at the  Chicago police station followed a night of violence in Baltimore that capped a week of what had been mostly peaceful protests in that city against the police killing of Freddie Gray , an unarmed black youth.

Chicago is no stranger to the extrajudicial killings of its young people of color and the mood was tense, yet hopeful, in the shadow of the Michigan Ave police station.

Among the speakers were the family members of the too many slain. The brother of 22-year old Rekia Boyd, murdered by police and whose killer still wears a badge, took to the microphone to express his love for the people gathered and to remind them that the tears he cried were not “tears of sadness,” but “tears of anger” at a system that took his “baby sister” and denied his family justice.

Officer Dante Servin shot Rekia in the back of the head in an alley in March, 2012 after allegedly mistaking her boyfriend’s cell phone for a gun. Boyd’s hoodie, bearing a picture of his sister, read “they took her life, but not her voice” and the chanting of the crowd of about 500 served in affirmation.

Dorothy Holmes, the mother of Ronald Johnson, spoke in her son’s memory saying, “He got killed because he was running while black. He was shot down from the back.” She went on to indict the police for hypocrisy adding, “Six feet away from him, you shot at him seven times, two of the bullets killed him. But let that had been one of their kids, that man that pulled the trigger on that officer’s child, they would have beat the hell out of him, that’s all I have to say.” She left the mic to thunderous applause.

The event was put on by a diverse coalition of organizations including We Charge Genocide, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Feminist Uprising to Resist Inequality and Exploitation (FURIE). Emcee Malcolm London laid out their demands saying, “We are asking for the firing, for this police department that claims it stands on law, order, justice, and the protection and serving of this community, we’re calling on you to fire a murderer… we are also calling for a civilian police accountability council in this city so that we can hold police accountable.”

Even though the air of the event was generally somber, moments of inspiration and righteous indignation permeated the crowd with a sense of duty. Poetry that celebrated the lives of young people of color and indicted the system brought the crowd to hollers of support.

Young Baylee Champion read her poem “February 26,” a reference to the date two days prior to the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Jaylen Kobayashi, 14, of Albany Park read an unnamed poem: “It’s a cold world, take a piece of yours and diminish mine, yellow tape of ‘do not cross’ runs across the U.S. like a finish line. Stay hungry Mr. Officer, every black man is dinner time.”

When the group marched north on Michigan Ave, they were accompanied by dozens of police cars and officers cautiously keeping an eye out for signs of activity that might constitute violence or law-breaking. When the protestors took to the streets a few were swept up in the commotion.

The earlier comment by one speaker that “we’re one more murder away from Baltimore” stuck in a lot of peoples’ heads.

Photo: Earchiel Johnson/PW


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.