March 7, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Against a backdrop of intense calm in the ongoing crisis in Chicago, there was, and is, great necessity to put the struggle to STOP police murder and terror squarely back before all of society and to keep the police and their protectors in the ruling class on the defensive as they continue their genocidal agenda against Black and Brown people.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network Chicago put out a call to make March 2 a Day of Resistance to Stop Police Murder: Which Side Are You On? Indict all the Murdering Cops and All Those Who Are Part of the Cover-ups, Send Them All to Jail! Two major actions were called: Stolen Lives Families Demand Justice, a special event at noon; and later that day people gathered at a downtown location for another action: “No business as usual as long as the business of usual is cops killing people with impunity.”
In the wake of massive outrage and many protests after the release of the video last November of the police execution of Laquan McDonald, video after video and exposure after exposure opened a window onto the horrendous face and scope of wanton murder by police in Chicago. And it revealed the lies and cover-ups by all the institutions of local government—from the police to the mayor to the state’s attorney, to the police review board and more—who were complicit in these crimes. In response to the growing “crisis of confidence,” the powers that be tried to calm down the outrage with some minor reshaping and reshuffling of some positions of authority, bringing in “outside” investigations and promising various reforms and reform candidates.
But after all this there has been NO JUSTICE. They murdered Quintonio Legrier and Bettie Jones the day after Christmas. It’s been 500 days since Laquan’s murder, and only the killer cop was indicted. None of the cops, city authorities, etc. who aided and abetted and covered it all up have been indicted. And none of the cops in all the similar cases that have come to light have been charged with anything.
“Stolen Lives” Families Demand Justice:
Lunch hour in the
Chicago, Stolen Lives Families Demand Justice,
All floors open over a very large sky-lit atrium in the center. At the very bottom is the concourse, which can be seen from all the floors above.
In the center of the concourse, more than 100 people faced a big Stolen Lives banner and family members of 10 people murdered by police. Many held pictures and posters of their loved ones. At the back of the audience was a bank of 10 TV and video cameras, recording the Stolen Lives Families Demand Justice special event. And behind the cameras, at the edge of the atrium, the state made a point of stationing eight state police and a police dog during the program. Assembled upstairs, at the main entrance to the building, was an intimidating force of dozens of Chicago Police Department bike cops.
“This is a crime scene! Chicago is a crime scene!... Body after body lying in the streets for hours... while cops stroll around and decide how to cover up their crimes!,”said the program’s emcee.“Today we have witnesses to these murders—families who have lost precious loved ones, and refuse to be silent!”
Speaking of the national epidemic of police murder, the emcee continued: “Indict, convict, send the killer cops and ALL those responsible for covering up those murders to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!”
The family members whose loved ones were murdered by Chicago police were Chantell Brooks, mother of Michael Westley, 15 years old, killed in 2013; Gloria Pinex, mother of Darius Pinex, 27 years old, killed in 2011; Janet Cooksey, mother of Quintonio Legrier, 19 years old, killed the day after Christmas in 2015; Lagina Kelly, sister of Christopher Kelly, killed in 2015; Darius Smith, brother of Jamaal Moore, 23 years old, killed in 2012; Octavia Mitchell, mother of Izael Jackson, murdered by police in 2010; “Godfather,” the father of Freddie Latrice Wilson, murdered in 2007. They were joined by LaToya and Alice Howell, mother and grandmother of Justus Howell, murdered by Zion, Illinois, police in 2015; Venus Anderson, mother of Christopher Anderson, killed by Highland Park, Illinois, police in a hospital room in 2014; and Andrea Irwin, mother of Tony Robinson, murdered by Madison, Wisconsin, police in 2015.
Everyone felt the moral and emotional weight of having all those families standing up and telling their stories together. Each one of these police murders is such an outrage, but hearing them at the same time painted a picture that was searing. Mothers were describing teenagers murdered by police: people shot in the back running away, people killed in routine traffic stops. The lies, the cover-ups, the demonizing of loved ones, the retaliation against the families for speaking out. And over and over, no justice... killer cops walk the streets.
The audience included all ages and different nationalities. Teachers and professors brought small groups of students including “at-risk” youth from one high school. People passing by were drawn into it. The cameramen reacted to it. There was the tremendous pain, and family members broke into tears and supported each other. But there was also something more: through all the pain was the courage of standing up and speaking out. The anger and the demand that this police murder and terror must stop, built through the event.
The Stolen Lives Families Demand Justice event was filmed by four local news stations and the CAN TV cable network, as well as by several independent filmmakers. A video will be posted at www.revcom.us when it is available. However, it is outrageous that very little of this comprehensive coverage of this unique and highly relevant and timely event actually made it into the local newscasts that day.
Some of the words of the parents capture the event:
Gloria Pinex, mother of Darius Pinex who was murdered in Chicago during a bogus “high risk” traffic stop over five years ago, said the only one at “high risk” was Darius. (See article on his case at www.revcom.us.) For the whole time there was a cover-up, including throughout a civil suit against the killer cop. A new civil trial has been ordered by the federal judge. But meantime the killer cop has still not been indicted. Gloria said that there were a lot of other mothers who weren’t there, but she would speak out for them: “No Justice, No Peace.” Her 16-year-old son Trevon read a poem he wrote about his brother Darius. “I’m holding on strong, trying to be a man. Why you had to leave me, I just don’t understand,” he said.
Chicago, Stolen Lives Families Demand Justice, March 2, 2016. Latoya Howell, mother of Justus Howell, at mic. Photo: Special to revcom.us/Revolution
LaToya Howell described how her 17-year-old son, Justus, was shot twice in the back in Zion, while running away from five cops who were chasing him. She went on to address people like those sitting in the food court: “I don’t understand how people go on with their daily lives as if this didn’t happen. ‘I’ve got to stick to my job, close my eyes, close my ears to this, I can’t get involved’... If your voice is not heard, KNOW that you are NOT part of the solution. If your voice is not heard, you are part of the problem. Speak out! Never hold your peace! Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
Andrea Irwin is the mother of Tony Robinson, who was murdered by Madison, Wisconsin, police on March 6, 2015. He was shot seven times in the chest and face in 18 seconds. “Every person—if you think it’s not going to happen to you, next time around it CAN be you. It wasn’t me. Now it IS me. Don’t wait until you lose your loved one. This HAS to STOP! If you stand by and do nothing, you’re just as guilty as those who are doing the crime, period. You HAVE to stand up.”
Andrea went on, “We need people who’ve never been a part of this to stand up with us. Because there’s somebody next, somebody waiting in line to have their number called. And we’re going to... watch these people die. Please... make this system change. They NEED to see this, we NEED to take this to their front doors. They have to be held accountable for what they’re doing.”
Janet Cooksey, the mother of Quintonio Legrier, the Northern Illinois University honor roll student who was killed the day after Christmas in 2015, was passionate: “None of the police are paying for [these murders]; if they was, this wouldn’t continue to happen.” Referring to the fact that the pig who killed her son is now suing his family for his “emotional distress,” she said, “You kill my son and you want to be compensated for it? You have no conscience, no principles! And these are the people we have to go to... My son called 911 three times for help! The police officer shot him, and then the police officer tried to cover it up and say my son tried to hit him with a bat!
“Anita Alvarez [State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois] subpoenaed my son’s phone. What’s my son’s phone got to do with this? Everything’s about my son! What about this officer’s mental state? They said my son has mental health problems, what about that officer? They say my son had marijuana in his system. He’s a teenager!! What did that cop have in his system? Was HE drug tested? The police are not solving any problem. They ARE the problem...”
After Janet Cooksey finished speaking, Hank Brown, supporter of the RCP, read a quote from Bob Avakian ( BA) that spoke to everything that the families were testifying to:
There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness: Black people playing a crucial role in putting an end, at long last, to this system which has, for so long, not just exploited but dehumanized, terrorized and tormented them in a thousand ways—putting an end to this in the only way it can be done—by fighting to emancipate humanity, to put an end to the long night in which human society has been divided into masters and slaves, and the masses of humanity have been lashed, beaten, raped, slaughtered, shackled and shrouded in ignorance and misery.
The event also featured a very moving spoken word performance and everyone singing “Hell U Talmbout” (by Janelle Monáe)—saying the names of those killed in Chicago and around the country by police.
This event was forged in part through an hour-to-hour fight for a permit to hold it inside the Thompson Center, the seat of Illinois state government in Chicago. The political and legal battle in the current climate in Chicago and nationwide resulted not only in the permit being granted, but in focusing many more eyes on the Stolen Lives Families Demand Justice event. It garnered a lot of interest from the media calling to learn if the permit was granted.
The fight for the permit in particular drew forward several prominent community activists, ministers, professors, and attorneys, and influenced many others. On very short notice, the ACLU weighed in by sending a letter to the General Counsel for the State of Illinois Building. At the same time, it must be said that few such prominent individuals actually came to the event and stood with the families, permit or not. The fact that the permit was granted only one day before the event had a negative effect on a school on the South Side that canceled their plans to bring a busload of youths.
“No Business as Usual as Long as Murdering Police Walk Free” Afternoon Protest
This march was small, but it was united, defiant, and spirited. The aim was to disrupt the evening rush hour to challenge people broadly to take a stand to STOP POLICE MURDER and indict all the murdering cops and everyone involved in the cover-ups.
Chicago, March 2. Photo: FJJ
Fifty people protested, mostly young, the majority Black, with a number of Latinos, Asians, and whites. About half had been out in the streets in recent months protesting against police murder. For the rest, many of them college students who came alone or with one friend, this was their first demonstration. Two Stolen Lives families, including Janet Cooksey, joined the protest.
Core people who had been at the noon event and revolutionaries agitated and forged a sense of purpose and unity to kick off this action. A large Stolen Lives banner led the way. Many people carried posters with the names and pictures of people murdered by the police. After the protesters had marched half a block, the police began brutally pushing them back to the sidewalk with their bicycles and cars while demanding everyone get out of the street or they would be arrested. The protesters took to the street again to peacefully block a row of buses, and again the police rammed into them with their bikes. This pattern was repeated over a number of blocks, with the police becoming more and more thuggish.
Two well-known revolutionaries were arrested, as were two other protesters who were thrown to the sidewalk and brutalized. A fifth person, not arrested, ended up in the hospital after being beaten by the police. Demonstrators were screaming at the cops, “You are murderers, you murder people and then you arrest the protesters!” Janet Cooksey said she was shocked and outraged by the violence of the police against the protesters. She said, “The police are out of control,” and she repeated what she had said at the Thompson Center earlier: “You have no conscience!”
This determined core of resisters and revolutionaries were part of challenging thousands of people during rush hour to stand with them to stop police murder. The statement by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Chicago Branch got out broadly: “Police Murder and Terror Must Stop Now. We Need a Whole New World. We Need Revolution, Nothing Less! Get Ready for the Time When Millions Can Be Led to Go for Revolution, All-Out, With a Real Chance to Win.” Many people wanted to know what all the commotion was about, why so many police and paddy wagons everywhere? They were grabbing for leaflets. They were informed that it was about stopping police terror and not allowing the city and police to get away with their crimes, and that we need a revolution.
At this action there were not the numbers or organized strength needed to disrupt business as usual in a massive way to impact many more people from all sections of society. A college student who had never protested before expressed the contradiction like this: “The spirit of the marchers was tremendously inspiring. It makes me want to work to get many more people out into the street to stop police murder.”