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Chicago: Reactionaries attempt to block community control of police measures

Fight continues for ECPS
By Anna McColgan |
June 25, 2021
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Frank Chapman speaking at rally for community control of police.
Frank Chapman speaking at rally for community control of police. (Anna McColgan)

Chicago, IL - On June 23, over 150 people from the movement to stop police crimes and end police impunity rallied outside of Chicago City Hall before the city council meeting. “This should have been a meeting where ECPS would be voted on, where we are turning the people’s ordinance into the law of this city,” Kobi Guillory, co-chair of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) explained, “but what happened on Friday is that certain alderpersons, acting at the behest of the mayor of this city, blocked our substitute ordinance from being put in, which stopped it from being voted on.”

ECPS stands for Empowering Communities for Public Safety, an ordinance that gives the people of Chicago a decisive say in what policing and public safety look like. At the Committee on Public Safety meeting on Friday, June 18, Alderman Chris Taliaferro, committee chair, together with reactionary members of the committee, and assisted by several white alderpeople representing North Side wards, used a series of parliamentary maneuvers to obstruct the introduction of a substitute ECPS ordinance. The substitute ordinance has enough support to pass through the committee to the full council.

Alderman Sposato, donning a “Defend the Police'' shirt, with a “God Bless America” background, was able, with the help of Taliaferro, and the support of his backwards colleagues, to move for the substitute ordinance to be tabled. This was met with disagreement by several alderpeople present in the meeting, but Taliaferro stood by his decision, and went so far as to compare constituents putting up posters on their alderperson’s office to white supremacists who participated in the D.C. Capitol riots.

“We all know in Chicago that the Public Safety committee is the most conservative committee in the city. It is done that way by design so things that bring justice don’t move forward,” said Alderman Andre Vasquez, one of several aldermanic supporters who spoke at Wednesday’s rally.

The pro-ECPS coalition made the tactical decision prior to the vote in this backwards committee to divide ECPS into two ordinances. The second ordinance would include the referendum which creates a more achievable pathway for full community control of the Chicago Police Department, and the ECPS coalition, including the aldermanic allies, are united in support of this approach. That ordinance would go separately through the Rules committee.

Lightfoot and her allies are on the defensive, pulling illegal and undemocratic maneuvers in attempts to thwart the people’s will. As Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said, this “sleight of hand came from the mayor’s office and a few of her white allies on the Public Safety committee because they know that ECPS has got the votes. ECPS has got the votes because people came together and demanded justice. ECPS has got the votes because the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, came together with 100-plus community organizations. This is a movement, and this movement will not stop until the people have community control of police, and we have justice, until we stop killer cops.”

Alderwoman Maria Hadden added, “We have people in city council who are so accustomed to passing on decisions, to letting other people think for them, to letting other people make decisions for them, to deferring to the mayor. They’re not listening to us. It’s almost as if they don’t know how to work in a functional democracy. I know that we are going to win.”

Elijah Gerald Reed, a survivor of Chicago Police Department torture, who was wrongfully locked up for 31 years, joined in the rally, along with his mother, Armanda Shackelford. He got to the heart of the matter, saying, “I wonder what I could have done 31 years ago. I could’ve been an alderman. I could’ve been a governor. I went to school. They took me from school and kidnapped me from my mama. It shouldn’t happen to no one else’s kids.”

Armanda Shackelford addressed Lori Lightfoot directly, saying, “Mayor Lightfoot, get up off your foot, and do your job. Too many men and women are still incarcerated that shouldn’t be there. And that’s what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for their deliverance, and we need it now. Really, it shouldn’t have been allowed to go on in the city of Chicago, and this is a disgrace. Do the thing that’s right for once in your life, because you are so sorry. You are a sorry excuse for a human being, and to call yourself a mayor. A mayor to who, yourself? Because you’re not a mayor for us.”

Muhammad Sankari of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, said, “We’ve been told so many lies by the mayor’s office. The biggest lie we were told was that Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign was a direct descendant of our leader and our fighter Harold Washington. Our coalition is the inheritor of Harold Washington’s legacy! And [North Side alderpersons] Silverstein and Tunney, and the mayor’s office are nothing but a reincarnation of Vrdolyak.”

Edward Vrdolyak was the most openly racist of the white aldermen in the Chicago Democratic Party that blocked the agenda of Mayor Harold Washington when he was first elected in 1983.

Eric A. Russell of the Tree of Life Justice League laid out, “We are here because there is a hunt. There is a hunt, and those of us who have been kissed by the sun, the Chicago police have put targets on our back. The police no longer serve and protect Black and brown people in Chicago. They pursue and execute us.”

In closing the program, Frank Chapman, Field Organizer for CAARPR stated,, “So, how’s this gonna stop? It’s not gonna stop until we stop it. Ain’t nobody gonna free us but us. So, if you’re waiting on someone else to come and do it, stop waiting. Now is the time for us to begin that freedom, by us having control over who polices our communities and how our communities are policed. That’s the first step towards defunding the police. That’s the first step towards abolishing the police. That’s the first step towards abolishing this whole damn system that keeps us in bondage.”