Photo by Bill Chambers

Protestors from the large coalition fighting for community control of the Chicago Police were joined by hundreds of members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) before the Wednesday City Counsel meeting to demand an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). Mayor Rahm Emanuel had planned to have “the final details worked out on a comprehensive plan to fundamentally reshape our system of police accountability” and introduce his plan at this City Council meeting.

But seeing the planned protest that grew to an occupation of three floors of City Hall, the Mayor blinked and “postponed” announcing his plan.

Photo by Bill Chambers
Photo by Bill Chambers

The lead organization calling for the elected CPAC, Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression (CAARPR) called a press conference and rally joined by multiple community, activist, unions and faith-based groups including Black Lives Matter Chicago, CTU Teachers Union Black Caucus; Jobs With Justice; Pilsen Alliance; National Alliance for Filipino Concerns; Student and Graduate Activists (UIC); US Palestinian Community Network, Justicia en Ayotzinapa Comite, United Working Families, Workers Organizing Committee/ Chicago FightFor15!; AFSCME Local 1216; and the American Friends Service Committee-Chicago.

The speakers at the press conference outside of the City Council chambers all had the same message – “No Mayor appointed oversight board, monitor, auditor, or inspector general. Only community control. Only CPAC!”

Frank Chapman, field organizer for CAARPR, set the tone for the day.

“We don’t want a Mayor appointed anything. In fact, he should be a co-defendent in the case of Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald. (Interrupted by chants of “16 Shots and a Coverup!”)…We don’t need any more hearings, commissions or anything. We want an elected, all Civilian Police Accountability Council. We want community control of the police.”

In December 2015, the Chicago Teachers Union passed a resolution to endorse CPAC.  The CTU Recording Secretary, Michael

CTU Recording Secretary, Michael Brunson
CTU Recording Secretary, Michael Brunson

Brunson, described how an elected, civilian police review board fit with the union’s demands for community control of the schools.

“We want control over our public schools. We demand an elected school board. We feel that all of our public institutions should be overseen by community members, by civilians. This is not a police state. We are a democracy. An important part of a democracy is civilian oversight. We are fully in support of  Civilian Police Accountability Council. This will become a model for other cities across this nation.”

In 2013, Reverend Catherine Brown was driving with her two daughters when their car was rammed by two Chicago Police officers, Jose Lopez and Morse Murphy. Murphy pepper-sprayed Brown and Reverend Brown was removed from her car and said she was beaten. Murphy has a history of problems including a 30-day suspension for a false robbery call and at least 19 complaints — one linked to a wrongful arrest lawsuit against the city that was settled – in 10 years. Reverend Brown spoke of the lack of any justice in her case when neither officer has ever been charged for the incident.

“What do I tell my eight year old daughter at night when she can’t sleep knowing that those officers are still on the street? Rahm Emanuel if you mean business about bringing the community together, you will take those officers off the street now…We are tired of fake police accountability. Emanuel we’re asking you to give us CPAC now!”

Eric Russell from the Tree of Life Justice League (Photo by Bill Chambers)
Eric Russell from the Tree of Life Justice League
(Photo by Bill Chambers)

Eric Russell from the Tree of Life Justice League spoke for Bettie Jones who in December, 2015 was mistakenly shot dead when answering the door of her West Garfield Park home by Chicago Police who were responding to an emergency call involving her young neighbor.

“Bettie Jones was executed by those who had sworn an oath to protect her…When Bettie’s daughter asked the police why did you shoot my mother, the police officer’s response was “Your mother is dead, get over it.” The Chicago Police have no respect for Black and Brown people. They have gone well beyond systemic racism and institutional racism. They have no respect for our humanity.”

Kofi from Black Lives Matter Chicago describes the ongoing police violence against the Black and Brown communities.

“The violence against our community must end. The only way we have power is by community control of the police. Black Lives Matter Chicago understands that CPAC is an important part of this process. Without community control of the police, they will continue to do harm to our community…they will continue to kill us with impunity. Not only do these crooked cops need to go to jail, but this entire system needs to be brought down from the way it is now.”

Frank Chapman in introducing Muhammad Sankari representing the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) reminded the crowd “These are our allies…at this point in time, there is a vicious racist attack on the Muslim and Arab community. We stand in solidarity with these brothers and sisters. Make no mistake about that.”

Muhammad Sankari from USPCN
Muhammad Sankari from USPCN

Muhammad Sankari described how the police tactics and torture inflicted on the Muslim and Arab community by the CIA has been brought back to Chicago.

“Arab and Muslim communities of the Chicagoland area stand unequivocally behind the Civilian Police Accountability Council…Chicago has become the torture capital of the US. We see practices happening in this city that happen in jails. The CIA has rendered members of our community to these type of jails. These practices are being brought home to the city of Chicago. When you look at Homan Square, when you read the Jon Burge torture transcripts, you see practices that didn’t even happen in US supported dictatorships around the world. We need to end this now…and how do we end these practices? Civilian oversight and civilian control.”

After the end of the press conference, over a hundred protestors continued to chant and rally before the City Council meeting. Representatives of the group asked to be allowed to come to the public meeting, but were told there was no more room for visitors. But in reality there were several empty gallery seats in the City Council chamber both before and during the meeting.

(Photo by Bill Chambers)
(Photo by Bill Chambers)

As the City Council meeting continued, several hundred protestors from the CPAC coalition and the Chicago Teachers Union occupied both the second floor and main floor of City Hall for about an hour before marching around the building to attend a CTU rally of teachers, parents, and students at the Thompson Center.

The press conference, City Hall occupation, march, and rally displayed the level of solidarity activists have in Chicago around the key issues of community control of the Chicago Police and of the Chicago Public Schools. At the center of this protest is a refusal to accept the reformist and half-measures that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed. Repeating Michael Brunson’s words: “We feel that all of our public institutions should be overseen by community members, by civilians. This is not a police state. We are a democracy.”


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.