Confronting police rape

CHICAGO--Activists and community members gathered outside the 23rd District Police Station in the Boystown neighborhood September 2 to protest growing incidents of police rape and sexual assault in the city.

Chanting "Accountability, not impunity!" the demonstrators formed protest lines directly in front of the entrance to the police department and held their signs high as the police looked on from the other side of the windows. The demonstration was called by the Campaign Against Police Sexual Assault (CAPSA), and was the group's second direct action since forming about three months ago.

The action caught the attention of numerous passersby who stopped to sign petitions and speak with protesters. Drivers slowed in traffic to read signs and honked in support.

The decision to protest at the 23rd District came as a result of the indictment of two 23rd District officers--Paul Clavijo and Juan Vasquez--on counts of criminal sexual assault and official misconduct. The officers have been charged with raping a 22-year-old woman (identified only as "Jane Doe") in her apartment after offering her a ride home at 2 a.m. on March 30, 2011. Both officers have a history of complaints and charges filed against them for acts of sexual violence and harassment.

The event was aptly named "Confronting Police Rape! Takin' it to the Police!" with the intent being to expose these officers along with highlighting the facts about rape--including the fact that some 60 percent of sexual assaults are never reported and that rape and sexual assault disproportionately occur within poor communities and communities of color. CAPSA members noted that it is no coincidence that these are the neighborhoods most affected by instances of police harassment and brutality.

A previous CAPSA protest against these two officers, as well as rape culture, took place in early August at the Cook County Courthouse during their first hearing, and was small but spirited. The action on Friday evening, however, doubled in size and drew support from the sidelines when passersby joined in and held signs to demand an end to police brutality and rape.

The rally was fueled by impromptu speeches given by CAPSA members and those from supporting organizations. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Chicago's Bisexual Queer Alliance and the International Socialist Organization were among the organizations that turned out to voice their disgust at the crimes of these two officers and highlight other cases of police brutality, racism, sexism and harassment that the police use against the most vulnerable communities in Chicago.

Closing with the chant, "Until we get it, we won't go! Justice for Jane Doe!" and a chant borrowed from the SlutWalk march, "Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no!" protesters announced the group's next planned direct action and proclaimed that they adamantly oppose putting more police on the streets.

Protesters reiterated the importance of survivor empowerment and grassroots organizing to fight against these instances of systematic sexual violence. CAPSA plans on returning to the Cook County Courthouse on September 9 at 8 a.m. to show solidarity with Jane Doe and demand an end to police sexual assault, during the second hearing for Clavijo and Vasquez.