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Police Killings Spark Protest

by Heather Truskowski |
July 28, 1999
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Chicago, IL - More than 700 protesters, angered by a Chicago police killing spree, packed a June 17 hearing of the Police Board, and filled the streets around Police Headquarters. As chants of "No Justice, No Peace!" rang out, police shut down a nearby bridge, attempting to close-off the area around their headquarters.


During the week of June 5th, Chicago police shot and killed two unarmed African-Americans. Their "crimes," traffic violations. Bobby Russ was a Northwestern University football star who planned to graduate this month. Latanya Haggerty was shot getting out of a car with her hands in the air.


Agenor Roman, a young Latino who lives in the Lathrop Homes project, was also shot the same week and is in critical condition. Neighbors Against Police Brutality (NAPB) organized a full bus from Lathrop homes to join the June 17 demonstration.


Movement Growing


"The police cover-up is in full swing, but so is the growing anti-police brutality movement in Chicago," said Stephanie Weiner of NAPB.


City Hall demonstrations have happened daily since the shootings. The Chicago Police Board meeting in April faced a heated 30 demonstrators. The Police Board meeting in May had to deal with over 100 victims, family members and protesters.


Ilsa Guillen, whose husband was killed by police, said, "More victims of police brutality means more people to protest. Almost every Black or Latino person in Chicago knows someone who has been abused by the Chicago police."


"In the most recent cases, the police declared the shootings justified before the investigations had even started," states Weiner. "In typical scapegoat-mode, they say that mistakes were made because the cop was a rookie, or the cop was a small woman who was intimidated, or the cell phone in Haggerty's hand looked like a gun, or the car windows were tinted on Russ' car."


The Chicago Police Department has already had to backstep on these claims and the U.S. Department of Justice has been called in on these cases.


People's Demands


The police officers implicated in the shootings of Haggerty and Russ should be suspended, not collecting pay at desk duty. A statement by organizations leading the anti-brutality movement says, "All officers involved in the Haggerty and Russ murders must immediately be fired and criminally prosecuted for their involvement in these young people's killings."


Additional demands beyond these cases have been raised by Chicago community leaders, like Reverend Paul Jakes, and by members of the Village Vanguard, Comité Exigimos Justicia, Justice is Blind, the Black Radical Congress, Neighbors Against Police Brutality, and many other groups.


These activists know that the entire police system is racist and terrorizes Black and Latino neighborhoods daily. According to Caryl Sortwell of NAPB, "As more and more white suburbanites move back to the city, the problem of police brutality in communities of color has become worse. Neighborhoods become wealthier and whiter, an increase in police 'protection' translates into brutality."


Over the past 9 years, Chicago police have shot over 500 people, and killed over 100 people of color. This past year has seen the highest rate of killing by police in 10 years.


Chicago must change the police union contract, which gives police special rights to continue brutality and to cover up for each other. For example, the current contract gives police accused of brutality the time to make up their version of events, and it allows them access to evidence and witness statements against them.


The contract also allows them to erase old police brutality convictions from their record after only 3-5 years. "Cops who are brutal should be tracked, not protected," says Ruth Pena, of Comité Exigimos Justicia. "Records of police brutality cases must be open to the public."


Activists want to abolish the Command Channel Review process that allows police higher-ups, like Superintendent Terry Hillard, to overturn the findings of the Office of Professional Standards (OPS). The OPS is the city agency that investigates police brutality charges. While OPS is a flawed department, it recently bowed to community pressure and found many officers guilty of brutality and cover-up. These findings were overturned during Command Channel Review.


Chicago needs to re-open the cases of men who were tortured for confessions under Commander John Burge. Chicago needs to videotape all future interrogations and confessions. Chicago's Police Board must be an elected, civilian body, not an appointed group of the Mayor's friends. The Police Board must conduct its business in the community, not downtown where the public has a hard time attending.


"Although the June demonstration targeted the Police Superintendent and the Police Board, as the new chant says, 'How do you spell racism? D-A-L-E-Y!' This fight is, in the end, with Mayor Richard Daley. He sets the policies and pulls the strings of the Chicago Police," states Sortwell.


She continued, "We are inspired by the anti-police brutality struggles in New York, California and Houston, as well as the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Together, our growing movements will make justice a reality."


Chicago, IL - More than 700 protesters, angered by a Chicago police killing spree, packed a June 17 hearing of the Police Board, and filled the streets around Police Headquarters. As chants of "No Justice, No Peace!" rang out, police shut down a nearby bridge, attempting to close-off the area around their headquarters.


During the week of June 5th, Chicago police shot and killed two unarmed African-Americans. Their "crimes," traffic violations. Bobby Russ was a Northwestern University football star who planned to graduate this month. Latanya Haggerty was shot getting out of a car with her hands in the air.


Agenor Roman, a young Latino who lives in the Lathrop Homes project, was also shot the same week and is in critical condition. Neighbors Against Police Brutality (NAPB) organized a full bus from Lathrop homes to join the June 17 demonstration.


Movement Growing


"The police cover-up is in full swing, but so is the growing anti-police brutality movement in Chicago," said Stephanie Weiner of NAPB.


City Hall demonstrations have happened daily since the shootings. The Chicago Police Board meeting in April faced a heated 30 demonstrators. The Police Board meeting in May had to deal with over 100 victims, family members and protesters.


Ilsa Guillen, whose husband was killed by police, said, "More victims of police brutality means more people to protest. Almost every Black or Latino person in Chicago knows someone who has been abused by the Chicago police."


"In the most recent cases, the police declared the shootings justified before the investigations had even started," states Weiner. "In typical scapegoat-mode, they say that mistakes were made because the cop was a rookie, or the cop was a small woman who was intimidated, or the cell phone in Haggerty's hand looked like a gun, or the car windows were tinted on Russ' car."


The Chicago Police Department has already had to backstep on these claims and the U.S. Department of Justice has been called in on these cases.


People's Demands


The police officers implicated in the shootings of Haggerty and Russ should be suspended, not collecting pay at desk duty. A statement by organizations leading the anti-brutality movement says, "All officers involved in the Haggerty and Russ murders must immediately be fired and criminally prosecuted for their involvement in these young people's killings."


Additional demands beyond these cases have been raised by Chicago community leaders, like Reverend Paul Jakes, and by members of the Village Vanguard, Comité Exigimos Justicia, Justice is Blind, the Black Radical Congress, Neighbors Against Police Brutality, and many other groups.


These activists know that the entire police system is racist and terrorizes Black and Latino neighborhoods daily. According to Caryl Sortwell of NAPB, "As more and more white suburbanites move back to the city, the problem of police brutality in communities of color has become worse. Neighborhoods become wealthier and whiter, an increase in police 'protection' translates into brutality."


Over the past 9 years, Chicago police have shot over 500 people, and killed over 100 people of color. This past year has seen the highest rate of killing by police in 10 years.


Chicago must change the police union contract, which gives police special rights to continue brutality and to cover up for each other. For example, the current contract gives police accused of brutality the time to make up their version of events, and it allows them access to evidence and witness statements against them.


The contract also allows them to erase old police brutality convictions from their record after only 3-5 years. "Cops who are brutal should be tracked, not protected," says Ruth Pena, of Comité Exigimos Justicia. "Records of police brutality cases must be open to the public."


Activists want to abolish the Command Channel Review process that allows police higher-ups, like Superintendent Terry Hillard, to overturn the findings of the Office of Professional Standards (OPS). The OPS is the city agency that investigates police brutality charges. While OPS is a flawed department, it recently bowed to community pressure and found many officers guilty of brutality and cover-up. These findings were overturned during Command Channel Review.


Chicago needs to re-open the cases of men who were tortured for confessions under Commander John Burge. Chicago needs to videotape all future interrogations and confessions. Chicago's Police Board must be an elected, civilian body, not an appointed group of the Mayor's friends. The Police Board must conduct its business in the community, not downtown where the public has a hard time attending.


"Although the June demonstration targeted the Police Superintendent and the Police Board, as the new chant says, 'How do you spell racism? D-A-L-E-Y!' This fight is, in the end, with Mayor Richard Daley. He sets the policies and pulls the strings of the Chicago Police," states Sortwell.


She continued, "We are inspired by the anti-police brutality struggles in New York, California and Houston, as well as the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Together, our growing movements will make justice a reality."

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