Frank Chapman, Field Organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR), said about Saturday’s rally and march for community control of the police – “This is just a knock on the door.” On Saturday, 3,000 people from communities all over Chicago came pounding on City Hall’s door demanding justice for the 400 victims of police violence. #StopPoliceCrimes #BlackLivesMatter
Marchers represented the Black, Latino, Arab, Muslim, and many more communities who had been impacted by a history of Chicago Police shootings, torture, profiling, harassment and surveillance. The march was initiated by the CAARPR who have been fighting for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) for many years. Now with the momentum built by CAARPR, Black Lives Matter Movement, We Change Genocide, Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y.), Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100), and many other organizations, Saturday’s march clearly demonstrated that the demand for civilian control over the Chicago Police has grown into a mass movement of solidarity between community organizations in the city.
The rally and march put the victims of police violence at the center of the program – whether it was moments of silence and die-ins during the march or listening to the parents of sons and daughters who had been killed by the police. Lajuana Lampkins, the mother of Prince Akbar, who was murdered by Calumet City police, expressed the sentiments of many of the family members, “I am grateful people care about what all of us are going through…This is a demonic system killing our youth. We are going to fight for them so they don’t have to.”
There were multiple unions who participated in the march including AFSCME Local 2858. Bunnie Johnson, activist, union steward and executive board member described why the Local was supporting the march. “Black Lives Matter – yes they better matter. Local 2858 is more than a job, we are part of the community. We are your neighbors and friends. Police brutality matters to us all – both working and non-working.”
Michael Brunson from the Black Caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union compared the “undemocratic” nature of the current Police Board whose members are all appointed by the Mayor to the same unelected Chicago Public School Board that is closing schools and cutting funding for special education students. Brunson reminded the crowd of the 13-day-old hunger strike at Dyett High School in Bronzeville on the South Side. The hunger strikers are fighting for Dyett to remain open as the last publicly operated school in the neighborhood.
The Chicago Fight for $15 movement that organizes for a $15 minimum wage was also active in the march. A statement from McDonald’s worker Adrianna Alvarez was read to the crowd.
“Fight for 15 stands in solidarity with the demand for CPAC. Police violence affects the immigrant community and the fight four 15 movement. It is not right for us to live in fear…I was arrested at McDonalds for a crime I didn’t do. The judge seemed racist in saying I wasn’t taking the court seriously and gave me a fine of $100,000. I was released when the person who was actually guilty came in. I was held in Cook County jail for 4 days. It was mostly Latinas, Latinos, and African-Americans who fill up the jail.”
There was a large contingent representing Muslim organizations throughout the city that was mobilized by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), a federation of over 60 greater Chicagoland Islamic organizations. The CIOGC had organized buses from eight different mosques and community centers to bring people to the march.
Tabassum Haleem, Executive Director of the CIOGC, reminded those in the Chicago Muslim community that protecting the oppressed in society is a central component of Islam and a way to act in solidarity with all people of faith. “As with all great religions, Islam calls upon its followers to not only acknowledge one’s relationship with God, but also with fellow human beings…Protecting individuals against oppression in all its forms is one of those clear mandates, whether it’s economic, political, social or legal. Like many cities in the U.S., Chicago faces challenges of inequities and inequality that affect too many of our brothers and sisters…As the unified voice of Chicago Muslims, CIOGC found in the BlackLivesMatter Rally and March an opportunity to partner with people of faith to act against oppression and injustice.”
The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) also had a contingent that emphasized the connections between the occupation in Palestine and the occupation in Ferguson. “We’re experiencing a true coming together between Palestinians and the African American community, witnessed most recently when more than 1,000 black activists, academic and artists signed a statement of solidarity with Palestinian liberation,” said Tarek Khalil, AMP Chicago board member. “As Palestinian Americans and as Muslims, our common struggle is the basis of our unity. Today’s march is one indication of our joint struggle against colonialism, imperialism, and institutional racism.”
The Arab American Action Network (AAAN) also had a large contingent of staff, members of the Youth Organizing Program and community members. Nesreen Hasan, Youth Organizer for the AAAN, explained how the long history of the organization made their participation in the march a logical part of their organizing work. “The AAAN has been doing solidarity work with the Arab and Black communities for 40 years. We’ve come to events by the CAARPR and they have supported our rallies…It’s just not right that every 28 hours someone is killed by the police.”
Members of the AAAN Youth Organizing Program have also traveled to Ferguson for the initial protests and during the one-year anniversary earlier this month. Recently, the Youth Organizing Program also launched an anti-profiling campaign for the Arab and Muslim communities in Chicago. Along with the fight for community control of police, campaigns like the AAAN’s against profiling and the campaign to end “stop and frisk practices” initiated by We Change Genocide and the Black Lives Matter Movement are all aspects of communities seeking justice for victims of law enforcement violence.
Rasmea Odeh, Associate Director of the AAAN and lead of their Women’s Committee, gave an impassioned speech describing her indictment and conviction of “unlawful procurement of naturalization” as another example of law enforcement targeting community organizers in the Arab and Muslim communities. She spoke of the historical solidarity between Palestinians and African-Americans in fighting for their rights for self-determination. “Police crimes against black people in the U.S. are almost identical to what we experience in Palestine…We Palestinians and Arabs stand in unqualified solidarity with brave black community members like all of you who are rising up against every instance of vicious police violence in this country…We demand police accountability and an end to profiling…As long as we stand tall and rise up together, we can achieve our goals and beyond…We believe black liberation in this country will lead to liberation for all.”
These community groups brought a multitude of issues to this march: stop racial profiling, stop and frisk, and surveillance of our communities; pay a minimum wage we can live on; fully support public schools in all neighborhoods; end the occupation of black neighborhoods and the occupation of Palestine. All of them point to democratic, community control over the policing, housing, schools, and jobs in every Chicago neighborhood. This is the only approach that can overcome the systematic racism that underlies all of these issues.
The CAARPR and the endorsing organizations of the march will continue to organize and seek aldermanic sponsors for the CPAC ordinance. Just as the Chicago Public School system is tightly controlled by City Hall, so too is the existing structure for reviewing police violence. Only continued organized pressure on City Hall by all the Chicago communities represented in the march will achieve democratic and just accountability of the police. The 3,000 marchers on Saturday took the first step of “knocking on the door.” As Frank Chapman added, “This is what united action for community control of the police looks like. We’ve initiated a new stage in the struggle with a clear political objective demanding systemic change. CPAC is about power to the people!”