Friday, December 28, 2012

No Justice! No Peace!

Report from the December 19th Press Conference called by the Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow.

Today members of the Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow were joined by the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, parents of those wrongfully convicted, police torture survivors, family members who have lost loved ones to police murder, and concerned community members and activists at their press conference early this afternoon in front of the mayor’s office at City Hall. The group’s message focused on demanding accountability from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez around their recent atrocious statements concerning wrongful convictions and denying the Chicago Police Department’s Code of Silence.

Marco Roc, a graduate student and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who also organizes with the Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow (ILCENJC), opened the press conference indicting the Mayor and State’s Attorney for their continued support of the Chicago Police Department’s Code of Silence, and active denial of the mounting problem of wrongful convictions. Roc had this to say,

“We are here to show that there’s a strong contingent of people that oppose the actions of Anita Alvarez and Rahm Emanuel. Further violence and silence of the CPD will not be tolerated. We demand that these public officials be held accountable for their actions, and we are inviting all concerned residents of all Chicago communities to stand up and fight against the racism, sexism, and overall violence of the Chicago Police Department. Let us stand up together and empower our communities. All power to the people!”

Ted Pearson, activist organizer with the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression (CAARPR), enumerated a list of demands including the resignation of Alvarez, and the immediate removal of all CPD officers who have any allegations or records of misconduct and abuse from active duty street patrol- this list was delivered to a mayoral representative along with a demand for a sit-down meeting with the mayor to include family members who have lost loved ones at the hands of CPD officers, the organizers were denied entrance to the mayor’s office to directly present their demands.

Emmett Farmer, father of Flint Farmer who was killed by Chicago Police in June of 2011, spoke about the difficulty of losing a loved one so wrongfully at the hands of the police and shamed Emanuel for remaining silent, and supporting the police in their quest for more “justifiable” claims of murder.

Mark Clements, a Jon Burge torture survivor and member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, urged people to become involved at the grassroots level and hold crooked politicians, like Emanuel and Alvarez’s feet to the fire. Citing his own experiences with forced tortured confession and subsequent wrongful conviction, Clements remarked that Alvarez’s statements made to 60 Minutes were obscene, and showed how committed she was to imprisoning Black men, regardless of physical or DNA evidence of an alleged crime.

Barbara Lyons, an activist working on Gregory Koger’s case, also spoke out about wrongful convictions. She cited that evidence that exposed the lies of State witnesses was barred from the jury along with video evidence shown in open court several times being barred from appellate court shows clearly how this legal system exists to incarcerate those who speak out against it. Koger, a well-known peace activist and radical, has done nothing to violate the terms of his bail for the past three years and still may face more time in jail.

Annabelle Perez, mother of Jaime Hauad, spoke on behalf of parents supporting the Unfair Juvenile Sentencing legislation, explaining that the trend in harsh sentencing steals children and young adults away from where they rightfully belong, with their families and communities.

Jesse Carver, a hospital worker at Rush University Medical Center, was the final speaker for the press conference. He recounted his experience with what he called, “walking while Black.” He was stopped by UIC police while walking to work one day; he was questioned, searched, his identification was confiscated and he was detained and arrested based on the accusation of a white woman from the UIC campus stating a Black man committed some offense and was near her building, and he looked like the accused. Carver was held for two days, without a lineup, or rights read to him, or an allowance to contact the hospital where he worked to explain why he was absent. In Carver’s retelling of this story it was clear he wasn’t saying anything unnatural to the status quo- this is the everyday lived experience of Black and Brown people in the city of Chicago.

Between speakers supporters chanted, “Racist Police have got to go! We must stop the New Jim Crow!” as well as,  “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Anita and Rahm have got to go!” “Accountability, not Impunity!” and finally “No Justice! No Peace! No Racist Police!” The energy of the crowd was palpable, these were people who were fed up with racist business as usual in Chicago and who have said “enough is enough,” and are calling on the whole of Chicago to fight back against police terror, demand Alvarez resign, and see killer cops off the streets.

One attendee, John Snowden had this to say reflecting on the stories he heard during the press conference, “It's so important to hear these experiences.  They give agency to the victims sharing their stories, taking back the humanity the cops stole from them.  They remind us why we fight, who we fight, and who we fight for. “

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