AC­TIVISTS, MAYOR TRADE JABS OVER WEEK­END MELEE

Week­end down­town melee pits Light­foot and Chicago Po­lice Dept. against ac­tivists

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - TOM SCHUBA & MADE­LINE KEN­NEY RE­PORT,

A day af­ter a chaotic down­town protest led to 24 ar­rests, Mayor Lori Light­foot on Sun­day faulted ag­i­ta­tors at the event for spark­ing the vi­o­lence as ac­tivists and key elected of­fi­cials put the blame squarely on po­lice.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view Sun­day morn­ing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Light­foot said “peo­ple have em­bed­ded them­selves in these seem­ingly peace­ful protests” and that “we are ab­so­lutely not go­ing to tol­er­ate peo­ple who come to these protests look­ing for a fight and are in­tend­ing to in­jure our po­lice of­fi­cers — and in­jure in­no­cent peo­ple who just come to be able to ex­press their First Amend­ment rights.”

Later Sun­day, or­ga­niz­ers of Satur­day’s demon­stra­tion to de­fund the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment and abol­ish U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment held a se­ries of news con­fer­ences at the Went­worth District po­lice sta­tion in Fuller Park, where some ac­tivists ar­rested in Satur­day’s melee were be­ing held.

In­dia Jack­son, an or­ga­nizer with Good Kids Mad City, ex­plained that she and other pro­test­ers were left “run­ning for our lives” when of­fi­cers ap­par­ently at­tempted to con­fine the group in a small area us­ing a tac­tic known as ket­tling.

“I was hit mul­ti­ple times with a ba­ton and I was tear-gassed all while try­ing to es­cape the area . . . . The of­fi­cers claimed that they didn’t want us there, but as we tried to leave, they wouldn’t let us,” Jack­son said. “We were specif­i­cally tar­geted while ex­er­cis­ing our right to protest.”

Or­ga­niz­ers for an­other group, In­crease the Peace, also ac­cused po­lice of go­ing too far.

“We were there peace­fully protest­ing, and then they started at­tack­ing the pro­test­ers,” said Berto Aguayo, In­crease the Peace’s co­founder and di­rec­tor. “And dur­ing the course of events, be­cause of their sus­tained bru­tal­ity, yeah, there were peo­ple who re­acted be­cause there were peo­ple get­ting beat up, they were fight­ing for their lives and that’s what you see on videos.

“This only hap­pens in dic­ta­tor­ship coun­tries.”

Ap­par­ently try­ing to blunt the crit­i­cism, po­lice on Sun­day re­leased footage show­ing pro­test­ers don­ning pon­chos, tak­ing out um­brel­las and moving col­lec­tively toward a po­lice block­ade at Michi­gan Av­enue and Wacker Drive.

The video then ap­pears to show a pro­tester lung­ing toward an of­fi­cer, set­ting off vi­o­lent clashes. At one point, a 25-year-old demon­stra­tor ap­pears to use a skate­board to strike an of­fi­cer. That man was charged with a felony count of ag­gra­vated bat­tery to a peace of­fi­cer on Sun­day, au­thor­i­ties said.

A sec­ond video of the same in­ci­dent shows some of­fi­cers swing­ing ba­tons at pro­test­ers be­fore spray­ing a chem­i­cal ir­ri­tant into the crowd. And an­other video that was widely cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia ap­pears to show dozens of of­fi­cers rush­ing toward a group of pro­test­ers.

Chicago Po­lice Supt. David Brown said of­fi­cers re­sponded “pro­por­tion­ally” to “pro­tect the peace­ful pro­test­ers.” He added that 17 of­fi­cers were hurt, mostly suf­fer­ing “bumps and bruises,” when pro­test­ers broke out pep­per spray and chucked ob­jects, in­clud­ing “bot­tles and bi­cy­cles.”

Be­sides the 25-year-old man, two women, ages 18 and 24, also were charged with felonies, with one of the women ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to steal a po­lice bodycam that had been ripped off an of­fi­cer.

In ref­er­ence to the videos shared by the po­lice, Aguayo de­fended pro­test­ers’ ac­tions, say­ing cops have “cre­ated the at­mos­phere for that to hap­pen.

“They ini­ti­ated the at­tacks,” he con­tin­ued. “And when peo­ple are fight­ing for their lives, peo­ple are go­ing to do what­ever they can to sur­vive and that’s what they did.”

On Sun­day, state Sens. Robert Peters and Celina Vil­lanueva; state Rep. Theresa Mah and state Rep. can­di­date Lake­sia Collins; Alds. By­ron Sig­cho-Lopez, Ros­sana Ro­driguez Sanchez and An­dre Vasquez; and Cook County Com­mis­sioner Bran­don John­son re­leased a joint let­ter crit­i­ciz­ing the tac­tics used dur­ing what they called a po­lice “crack­down.”

“We ques­tion the logic of spend­ing po­lice dol­lars on so­cial me­dia sur­veil­lance, pep­per spray and riot gear to beat teenagers while the di­rec­tives of the fed­eral con­sent de­cree go un­met and the mur­der clear­ance rate re­mains abysmally low,” the group wrote. “We are whole­heart­edly with the pro­test­ers who have taken to the streets to de­mand a fu­ture free of vi­o­lence.”

In­crease the Peace or­ga­niz­ers haven’t filed any complaints about Satur­day’s in­ci­dents. In­stead, the im­por­tant next step, they say, is for Brown and the mayor’s of­fice to is­sue pub­lic apolo­gies for “at­tack­ing the in­no­cent cit­i­zens of the city and the youths.” Ja’Mal Green, an ac­tivist and for­mer may­oral can­di­date, went a step fur­ther and called for Brown’s res­ig­na­tion while speak­ing to re­porters Sun­day out­side the Went­worth District sta­tion. Green said Light­foot and Brown have re­sponded to mount­ing calls to de­fund the depart­ment and take of­fi­cers out of pub­lic schools “with force.” “This is the same force that young peo­ple are fight­ing against,” Green said, adding that of­fi­cers “grouped up [Satur­day] like an army” to “pro­tect the rich.”

“WE ARE AB­SO­LUTELY NOT GO­ING TO TOL­ER­ATE PEO­PLE WHO COME TO THESE PROTESTS LOOK­ING FOR A FIGHT AND ARE IN­TEND­ING TO IN­JURE OUR PO­LICE OF­FI­CERS — AND IN­JURE IN­NO­CENT PEO­PLE WHO JUST

COME TO BE ABLE TO EX­PRESS THEIR FIRST AMEND­MENT RIGHTS.” LIGHT­FOOT ON “FACE THE NATION”

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES

Alycia Moa­ton speaks Sun­day out­side the po­lice sta­tion at 51st and Went­worth about week­end protests that led to more than 20 ar­rests.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

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