Dozens of activists and protesters took to the streets of North Lawndale on Wednesday night to demand city tax money be invested in alternatives to traditional policing.
An hour into the evening protest, about 10 demonstrators were arrested and charged with obstructing a roadway after they chained their bodies together and blocked the entrance to the Chicago Police Department’s Homan Square facility.
“We’re imagining a world without police,” said Camesha Jones, 24, of Bronzeville. “The city of Chicago has spent (millions) of dollars because of police misconduct settlements. I’m here to imagine a world where that money would be spent on education, mental health, to open school, clinics, create jobs.”
The demonstration coincided with similar protests Wednesday in New York and Washington, D.C.
Organized by a group called the Let Us Breathe Collective, the march started at Douglas Park in front of the home of Chicago police Officer Dante Servin. Protesters then marched down residential blocks and joined activists who were chained together in the road in front of the Homan Square police facility at South Homan Avenue and West Fillmore Street.
After singing songs, chanting and reciting poems, the crowd was asked to leave by police. When the group that was chained together refused to move, police took them into custody.
Police had to gather tools and use hand saws to remove the protesters. It took police about an hour to make the arrests.
Another march pushing for an end to traditional policing is planned Thursday in Chicago and will take the cause directly to Chicago police headquarters.
“We want a full divestment from policing and a full investment in black communities,” said Charlene Carruthers, national director at Black Youth Project 100. “We want a world where we don’t deal with conflict with police and prisons. It’s a process. It’s not just about tearing things down but building up alternatives, institutions and practices that deal with conflict and harm without punishment.”
The protests come as the nation is still reeling from the shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge, La., and also dealing with the police shootings of Alton B. Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota. The marches continue a longstanding push against police violence directed at African-Americans.
“Our movement has never called for the execution of police officers,” Carruthers said. “What we have done is called out the amount of power (police) have in our lives. At this moment, black families are also grieving and our actions continue because black people continue to be killed, live in poverty and live in communities that are hyper-surveilled and policed.”
Protesters set up a gathering site in a vacant lot near Homan Square and called it Freedom Square. It was another way to engage the community and promote the message to end policing, said Kristiana Rae Colon, co-founder of the Let Us Breathe Collective.
“We believe that strong communities do not need police and police do not keep us safe,” Colon said. “Almost 40 percent of Chicago’s budget goes to CPD right now, while we claim we’re too broke to fund our schools or pay for mental health services. There is a myth that Chicago is broke. Chicago is investing in what it deems necessary, which is different from what the people deem as necessary.
“Violence in black lives comes in the form of police abuse sometimes,” she said. “But state violence is also closing schools, closing mental health facilities, funding housing inequities.”
(c)2016 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.