Killings by Chicago cops stir anger

July 3, 2008

Sam Stoker reports on a demonstration that followed the fifth police killing in a two-week period

CHICAGO--A recent rash of police-involved shootings that has left five people dead here in the past two weeks sparked a small, but resolute, protest against police brutality and killing on June 28.

The protest convened in the South Chicago neighborhood where police fatally shot Devon Young, a 26-year-old Black man, in the back of the head June 14. Young was the second of eight men to have been shot by Chicago police in the past two weeks; five of the shootings were fatal, and three resulted in injury. All eight victims were people of color.

Protesters, outraged by the shootings, marched through the neighborhood, passed out flyers and encouraged people to come out of their homes and protest. "This is the same system it was in the slave days," one participant said. "The only way we can have justice is to come together and rise up."

Protesters marched to a police station where members of the community, and some of the victims' families, spoke vehemently against the killings. "Don't turn your back on Chicago police, they'll shoot you," said Ashunda Harris, whose nephew Aaron Harrison was killed by police in 2007.

South Side residents and activists gathered to protest the fifth killing by a Chicago police officer in two weeks
South Side residents and activists gathered to protest the fifth killing by a Chicago police officer in two weeks (Glenn Allen | SW)

Several officers who had been standing outside the front doors of the police station retreated inside after 9-year-old Joy Cooper picked up the microphone and demanded that police look at, and think about, the hundreds of names of victims of police shootings listed on a large black banner that protesters were holding. "How does it feel?" she said. "With all these names right here, and you can't look them in the eye."

The increase in shootings coincides with Chicago Police Department efforts to combat violence in some Chicago neighborhoods, where violent crime has increased in recent months.

However, the increased police presence and recent shooting rampage has done anything but make citizens feel safer. "There are serial killers loose in the streets of Chicago," said Hank Brown, referring to the CPD. "We cannot let this go unanswered."

If the increased police presence so far is any indication of things to come, police violence could get much worse on the streets of Chicago in coming months. On June 24, a CPD Press Release made known the department's "Summer Safety Plan," which announced intentions to deploy 70 to 80 additional cops to support patrol efforts in "challenged" districts, send helicopters to patrol city parks and beaches, and deploy SWAT teams in "Battle Dress Uniform" to "violence zones."

In addition, "Roadside Safety Checks" will include random vehicle inspections, and on weekends, "Roll Calls" will make the police presence known by sounding off sirens and flashing blue lights.

"We might as well start fighting," said Hope Suber, mother of Kevin Suber, who Chicago police shot in the back of the shoulder the same day as, and just a few blocks away from, Young. "We're going to be scared either way."

Noreen McNulty contributed to this article.

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