Chicago, IL - When thousands of people gathered at Federal Plaza Saturday, August 29, LaCreshia Birts and Michael Sampson of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression started the rally with a chant: "When we say fight back, you say CPAC!”
CPAC stands for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. The masses of people that rallied in Federal Plaza had all arrived at the same conclusion. As Mike Elliott, Chair of the Labor Committee of the Alliance put it, “It’s time to end the cycle: the cops kill a young Black or Latino; we protest and demand a killer cop go to jail; the protests die down, until another young man or woman is killed, and then the cycle begins again.”
The answer put forward was to demand that the city enact community control of the police. The Alli-ance has created legislation to do just that, and named it CPAC.
The mobilization was also the largest protest in Chicago against police crimes since the death of Mike Brown and the uprising in Ferguson. The organizers in the Alliance worked all year to build the coali-tion, and organize the affected communities.
The coalition included families of the victims who were murdered and tortured by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Speakers at the rallies before and after the march included Bertha Escamilla, whose son, Nick, was tortured into a false confession; Dorothy Holmes, whose son Ronnie Johnson was shot in the back in October 2014; Emmett Farmer, who had to watch a dash cam video of his son, Flint, being shot to death by a cop as he laid on the ground; Howard Morgan, a retired Chicago Police Officer, victim of attempted murder by active members of the CPD who shot him 28 times; and Martinez Sutton, whose sister, Rekia Boyd, was killed by officer Dante Servin.
For this past year, the Alliance has spent days petitioning and leafleting in the working class, Black and Latino communities of Chicago such as Woodlawn, South Shore, Austin, Humboldt Park and others, where the level of police crimes is rampant. Over 21,000 signatures have been gathered, all these at street corners.
United front: Powerful weapon in the struggle against national oppression
The protest was a majority oppressed nationality: Black, Chicano, Latino immigrant, Arab, South Asian, Filipino and others. It included contingents from the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), whose national director, Charlene Carruthers, invoked the memory of the most famous murder victim of the CPD, Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party. The day after the march was Hampton’s birthday.
The Arab American Action Network marched behind a banner carried by community icon, Rasmea Odeh. Odeh is under attack by the U.S. government for her continued resistance to the occupation of Palestine. Raped and tortured by the Israeli occupation forces in 1969, she has been a citizen and a leader among Palestinians in Chicago for many years. The Black Liberation movement and the Palestinians have struggled together over the years in support of each other.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicagoland also had an impressive contingent, which include Dr. Alia Ammar, executive director of PEACE, a grassroots organization whose mission is to fos-ter collaborative interfaith and intercultural social justice activism.
A new force that helped swell the size of the march were a number of unions and labor organizations. The largest was the Fight For $15. Adriana Sanchez, a McDonald’s worker, addressed the larger rally at Daley Plaza, demanding $15 an hour minimum wage and a union.
Also, wearing their signature red shirts, was a big crowd from the Black Caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union. Michael Brunson, chair of the Black Caucus of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and recording secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union, brought up to the stage one of the hunger strikers from Dyett Green Technology High School, the last public school in the historic Black community of Bronzeville. These parents and teachers there are fighting to stop the closing of their school.
SEIU Locals 73 and Health Care Illinois/Indiana, United Electrical workers, AFSCME Local 2858, Graduate Employees Organization, and UAW Local 551 all brought out members to support CPAC.
Alliance Field Organizer Frank Chapman said, “This is what united action for community control of the police looks like. We've initiated a new stage in the struggle with a clear political objective demanding systemic change. CPAC is about power to the people!”
Lift every voice
Angelique Fullwood, a young activist who traveled from Florida who had previously been an organizer with the Tallahassee Dream Defenders, explained her views of the struggle. “CPAC is a radical demand because it establishes real people power that can be used as a template for Black and Latino communities across the country to address police terror.” She added, “I believe the people of Chicago are at the perfect place in history right now to set the tone for the rest of the Black Liberation Movement.”
Numerous spoken word artists came up to perform, speaking out against Black national oppression and police crimes. At the closing rally, the crowd joined in singing the Black national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. The song was led by Pastor Rosalind Morgan, Church of the Living God and wife of Howard Morgani; and by actress and activist Mzuri Moyo Aimbaye, creator of the one-woman play, The Fannie Lou Hamer Story.
Sing a song, full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.
Sing a song, full of the hope that the struggle has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of a new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.