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Chicago community rebels against rigged hearing on police accountability

By staff |
May 18, 2018
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Alliance members confront supporters of Mayor Emanuel.
Alliance members confront supporters of Mayor Emanuel. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Chicago, IL - City council allies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a hearing in the South Side neighborhood of Roseland Tuesday night, May 15, to consider several pieces of legislation on police accountability. They attempted to use a rigged process to smother the voices of the mainly Black movement for community control of the police. For six years, the movement has supported legislation to create an elected, civilian police accountability council (CPAC).

In a clear display of the intention of the hearing organizers to intimidate the activists, especially those who are victims of police crimes or their family members, Corliss High School had a large contingent of armed Chicago police present, as well as bouncers who are used to keep order in city council. They established a line behind Alderman Ariel Reboyras, sponsor of the hearing; and staff persons from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), the body created by Emanuel after the storm of protests that followed the release of the video of the police murder of Laquan McDonald.

COPA has most of the same personnel as its predecessor, IPRA, which between 2007 and 2014 investigated the 400 cases of police shootings of civilians, and found only one of them to be unjustified. Also helping to host the hearing were members of the rubber-stamp Police Board, which for years has refused to fire officers shown to have brutalized or murdered civilians.

The movement refuses to accept Mayor Emanuel’s control of any new system of police accountability, because he covered up the video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times in order to get himself reelected.

Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression described the process that the mayor’s surrogate, Ariel Reboyras, tried to impose. “There was no speakers list to sign. You were issued an arbitrary ticket number to be matched to a table you would sit at.” Chapman explained that this ‘Café Conference’ model “was designed to make sure that CPAC and the demand for community control of the police would be muted and submerged in a manipulated discussion of the positives and negatives of the respective ordinances.”

Nataki Rhodes, co-chair of the Alliance, demanded that there be a panel of people presenting the various ordinances, and that the audience be allowed to respond and pose questions to the panelists. The facilitator, a consultant hired by the Chicago Police Department, complained in the face of the angry audience that she and others had “sacrificed their time” to be there. Most of the crowd clearly turned against the organizers.

A retired member of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), wrote on a big piece of paper, “We reject this process!” Kam Howard, a longtime activist in the Black community, held up the sign for the room to see, to a wave of applause from most in the room. After he did that, Rod Wilson, director of the Hope Center, stood up with a sign with the same message.

Later, Armanda Shackleford from the Alliance spoke about the torture and imprisonment of her son, Gerald Reed, a wrongfully convicted victim of the Jon Burge gang of disgraced former cops. Fighting to hold back tears, she demanded CPAC in order to win justice and see her son released from prison.

After that, the aldermen gave up. They later admitted to the press that their hearing was a failure, but said they will come up with another method for their remaining four hearings.

At the end of the hearing, Cosette Hampton, co-chair of the Black Youth Project 100, added her voice to that of the Alliance and other groups, announcing plans to show up at the remaining hearings, to resist the attempts to manufacture public support for new legislation leaving power over the police in the hands of the mayor.