Activists protest against police brutality outside mayor’s office
Activists protest against police brutality outside mayor’s office from The Gate Newspaper on Vimeo.
More than 50 activists and clergy packed the lobby outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office and staged a die-in demonstration followed by acts of civil disobedience today. The acts were part of a strategy to pressure Emanuel’s office to meet with them and discuss a system of accountability for police brutality in Chicago.
They chanted, lay on the floor and confronted the police who were guarding the entrance to the mayor’s office. Three activists tried to force their way in, but police immediately removed and arrested them.
“We are here because our mayor has allowed and encouraged a system in which the police [who] are supposed to protect us, are terrorizing and brutalizing our communities,” said Charles Anderson, a leader with the Community Renewal Society (CRS) and Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality (FORCE).
The participants are part of a coalition of 150 organizations, all from diverse backgrounds. They were protesting after several failed attempts to meet with the mayor. They said they organized a public forum in January where they invited the mayor, but he refused to attend. That event was followed by a prayer service in February where activists delivered a letter asking the mayor and the police superintendent to meet. And today, they refused to leave his office until he agreed to meet with them.
After about 40 minutes of chants and demonstrations and some minor confrontations with police officials, four community leaders were allowed to meet with the mayor’s aides.
According to an e-mail statement by the Community Renewal Society, one of the leading organizations of the coalition, officials from the mayor’s office agreed to meet with the group before April 7.
“This happened only after months of calls, letters, demonstrations and after three people were arrested today for trying to meet with their elected mayor,” read the statement. “We are glad that the mayor has committed to this meeting, but he is yet to commit to changing any of the policies that allow police misconduct to remain unchecked. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this meeting and whether the mayor is willing to commit to real, systemic change.”
Emanuel’s office sent out a statement saying, “The mayor and superintendent have zero tolerance for police misconduct, which is why we have implemented new training and procedures geared toward ensuring past incidents of police misconduct are not repeated.”
Those procedures include new training for officers, the use of body cameras to ensure transparency from CPD and moving police from administrative roles back to the street, said the statement.
In an e-mail statement, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) said they have been strengthening, “internal affairs, adding accountability measures to their work, adding more investigators, bringing sergeants into investigations and giving the Bureau of Internal Affairs priority in selecting staff. Additionally, CPD has worked to ensure we have the right supervisors in place, and provided new training that reflects the values we hold, not just as a department but as a community.”
However, the intense pressure to meet with the mayor comes after several studies and news reports have put the CPD on the spotlight for its unfair treatment and overuse of power geared mainly to minority men.
“Earlier this month the international press reported that the CPD is operating an off-the-books detention site in the Homan Square neighborhood where detainees are subject to arrest and illegal interrogation, and we know that these techniques happen all across Chicago,” Anderson said.
On Tuesday March 19, Chicago Police Commander Nicholas Roti, the chief of the bureau of organized crime, resigned after The Guardian, a British publication, broke a controversial story of police abuse and torture at the Homan Square black site, where people were allegedly held without access to counsel or notification to their families.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) released a report that found the CPD is among the leading departments in the nation overusing the controversial stop-and-frisk practices.
The report states the CPD has failed to keep data for when officers frisk individuals, making it hard to identify bad practices or make any policy changes. The report also says, “Chicago has failed to train, supervise and monitor law enforcement in minority communities for decades, resulting in a failure to ensure that officers’ use of stop and frisk is lawful.” The report said those practices have disproportionately concentrated in black communities.
According to the study, 72 percent of all stops were of black residents. In addition to that, last summer more than 250,000 stops didn’t lead to arrests.
The report also mentions that while officers are required to document reasons for stopping individuals, in almost half of the stops reviewed by ACLU, police officers failed to provide enough information or stated unlawful reasons.
Maria Torres is a congregational organizer with CRS. She said Latinos are also affected by police brutality. She said many of the people she works with have voiced their frustrations with the police, but many don’t speak out of fear of retaliation or due to their immigration status.
She said it is difficult across the board to bring people who have been victims of police brutality to come forward.
“We [want] people to know that we are fighting and that they are safe, that they have been victims and that this is now going to stop,” Torres said.