Standing for victims of Chicago police brutality

August 1, 2012

NEARLY 100 people gathered July 28 in Chicago's Daley Plaza to protest police brutality in the Windy City. Family members of victims were joined by students, activists and members of various communities to denounce the barbaric crimes of local police. The action was organized by the newly formed Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, a grassroots community group that has put victims and their families in the forefront of the struggle against racist police violence.

At a time when protest and repression in Anaheim, Calif., has added fresh urgency to the cause, Daley Plaza was filled with heartbreaking testimony from victims of police brutality as well as the family members of youth murdered by police. The attendees were a multiracial crowd of all ages.

Some local high-profile cases include Stephon Watts, a 15-year-old with autism murdered in his home by the Calumet City police department. "The police were called to the house for a disturbance [on a non-emergency phone line]," his sister explained to the crowd. "[They] shot and killed him."

Watts was holding a butter knife and was standing at the bottom of a basement stairwell when two police officers felt "threatened" enough to kill him--even though Calumet City police had responded to similar calls from the Watts family and had recently undergone training on how to handle such cases.

Another case is that of Rekiah Boyd, a 22-year-old woman killed by off-duty Chicago cop Dante Servin. Boyd was at a West Side park when Servin opened fire at a crowd of people. One of the bullets hit Rekia in the head, and she died a few days later. So far, no criminal charges have been filed against Servin, although a civil lawsuit has been filed.

These cases are the most recent examples of the police violence that Chicagoans from Black and Latino communities face every day.

In Chicago, gun violence has claimed more than 275 lives so far this year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has responded by adding more police officers to "crime-plagued" areas and making appeals to local residents to "take the neighborhoods back."

Emanuel, of course, is completely blind to the real problem in Chicago--poverty and racial segregation. The millionaire mayor's administration continues to push neoliberal policies, claiming that the city is broke while spending millions of public money on corporate handouts and hosting the NATO summit here in May.

And it is no coincidence that such devastating economic policies are closely followed with military-style policing in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. A recent article by the Chicago Reader reporter Steve Bogira illustrates that the areas with the heaviest rate of murder are also the poorest.

As Lajuana Lampkins, the mother of Prince Akbar, who was murdered by Calumet City police, explained, "There is an economic situation provoking the crime, [but] they want to put more money into the killing process instead of the healing process."

However, it is groups like the Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow that point to real solutions. When families and victims share their stories and their determination for justice, more will join the fight.

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