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Chicago: Over 200 cars join protest demanding mass release from jails, detention centers

By Kobi Guillory |
April 8, 2020
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Prisoners hold sign demanding help and are making noise in response to protest
Prisoners hold sign demanding help and are making noise in response to protest (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Chicago, IL - Hundreds of people took their cars to Chicago’s jails and detention centers on Tuesday morning, April 7, to demand a mass release of incarcerated people in the city. Isolated from each other in their cars, they were united in their message: Jails, prisons and detention centers must be depopulated before the spread of COVID-19 turns them into death camps.

Nearly 300 protesters in 200 cars targeted three locations: ICE headquarters, the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and Cook County Jail. Cars carried banners with slogans such as “Free them all” and “Mass release now.” Organizers also gave speeches and led chants while standing outside these locations. Incarcerated people made their voices heard by banging on their windows and writing statements such as “We matter too,” for those outside to see.

The demonstration was organized by the Chicago Community Bond Fund, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Assata’s Daughters, Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD), Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), and many other organizations.

The event comes after weeks of campaigning by organizations in Chicago and around the country to pressure public officials to depopulate the prisons and jails. Inmates are living under inhumane and life-threatening conditions. Solitary confinement, unclean cells, a lack of soap, sanitary supplies and personal protective equipment, and no access to commissary are just some of the conditions being reported. Jeffery Pendleton died April 6 of COVID 19 while in Cook County Jail on a $50,000 bond. He would have needed $5000 to be released.

The response from politicians has been sluggish to what many have identified as a threat to thousands of lives in jails, prisons and detention centers. Efforts to depopulate the jails in Chicago have focused on State's Attorney Kim Foxx and Governor JB Pritzker, among other public officials. Organizations have mobilized call campaigns and social media storms as well as a federal lawsuit to compel public officials to move faster on this issue.

During and after the citywide demonstration, various organizations and individuals urged people on social media to keep calling their officials. The message was clear: the calls, demonstrations and legal action will continue until public officials meet the demand of a mass release from jails and prisons.

Kobi Guillory is a member of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.