“16 shots and a cover-up”

Chicago’s Black community calls out police injustice

Chicago dueling protests
Demonstrators clashed outside of the office of Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx on April 1. | Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

By Chris Fry

On April 1, hundreds of Chicago cops demonstrated outside the downtown Chicago offices of Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, a Black woman who was elected to her position in November 2016. Nearly all of the cops, who were organized by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), were white. They stood outside shouting things like “Blue lives matter!” and “Foxx must go!” while many sported Trump’s infamous “Make America Great Again” hats. Witnesses said that this rally also included known members of “civilian” white supremacist groups.

On April 4, some thirty suburban police chiefs joined with the FOP to demand that Foxx be fired.

The cops were protesting the decision by the prosecutor’s office to drop the 16 felony charges leveled at television actor Jussie Smollett, a gay Black man who was accused of staging a hate crime against himself on January 29. The only person injured in the attack was Smollett, who has consistently maintained his innocence of all the charges against him. Smollett had faced up to 48 years in prison before the prosecutors reversed themselves. Instead, he was fined $10,000 and directed to perform community service.

This rally of uniformed thugs were bravely challenged by a smaller grouping of mostly Black activists, organized by Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), Black Lives Matter Chicago, The People’s Lobby and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. The Reverend Jesse Jackson also lent his support to this counter-demonstration.

Starting their counter-demonstration directly outside of the prosecutor’s office, these heroic protestors marched across the street to challenge the cops. They chanted “racists go home” and “16 shots and a cover-up.” This last chant refers to killer-cop Jason Van Dyke firing 16 bullets into the back of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. Van Dyke received less than seven years for his murder. Three cops who covered up Van Dyke’s crime received no punishment at all.

When told that, the FOP spokesman said that “he was pleased with the outpouring of support and that it’s critical to have ‘fair and just prosecution’ applied to everyone.”

But Frank Chapman, the co-chairman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the spokesperson for the counter-demonstrators, said, “This is phony justice. Not one person from the FOP or anyone of their ilk called a demonstration in defense of or promoting justice for Laquan McDonald.”

Of course, the Laquan McDonald case, which has sparked many militant demonstrations, is only one of a long list of atrocities by the Chicago cops directed at the Black community. On April 11, 2016, an article in the Guardian newspaper reported that:

Internal documents from the Chicago police department show that officers used physical force on at least 14 men already in custody at the warehouse known as Homan Square.

Police used punches, knee strikes, elbow strikes, slaps, wrist twists, baton blows and Tasers at Homan Square, according to documents released to the Guardian in the course of its transparency lawsuit about the warehouse. The new information contradicts an official denial about treatment of prisoners at the facility.

The injured men are among at least 7,351 people – more than 6,000 of them black – who, police documents show, have been detained and interrogated at Homan Square without a public notice of their whereabouts or access to an attorney.

It may be true that a famous Black entertainment worker like Smollett may receive more of a semblance of justice than thousands of other Black people who face either the community-to-prison railroad system or the barrel-of-the-gun “justice” that Laquan McDonald received. The growing anger by Chicago’s Black community facing these continued racist atrocities at the hands of the cops may have instilled a sense of fear along with a certain amount of common sense into the prosecutors when they removed the felony charges against Smollett.

That success should motivate us even more to organize our whole working class to stand with the Black community to overturn this brutally racist capitalist injustice system once and for all.

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