Chicago Sun-Times Posted: 02/18/2015, 12:04pm | Fran Spielman
Faith leaders, community activists and alleged victims of police harassment held a prayer vigil outside the mayor’s office on Ash Wednesday, demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy “repent” for police violence.
Organized by the Community Renewal Society, the protesters carried signs with black and white photos of Emanuel and McCarthy against a red background, with the caption, “Repent. Show us that black lives matter.”
They railed about the $80 million tab last year and the $500 million paid by Chicago taxpayers over the last ten years to settle cases stemming from alleged police misconduct.
They beefed about an Independent Police Review Authority that investigates excessive force complaints, but penalized just two percent of officers held responsible, and about the fact that black Chicagoans are shot by police at ten times the rate of whites.
They also complained about a pilot program to equip police officers in the Shakespeare District with body cameras that “lacks public oversight of any kind.”
The protesters demanded an end to “stop-and-frisk policies that disproportionately target communities of color” and an overhaul of the already-revamped and independent agency that replaced the Police Department’s old Office of Professional Standards.
They further demanded that the body camera program be amended to include: “accountability and consequences” for officers who turn off their cameras during an interaction with civilians; disclosure of recordings to recorded individuals and their attorneys; disclosure to the public of “flagged” recordings involving use of force, detention, arrest or complaints; and public participation in the evaluation of body cameras.
“Cameras will protect the Police Department and not the citizens. The mayor must act to amend this policy. People in communities of color are stopped, questioned and arrested at a far greater rate than their white counterparts,” said the Rev. Chris Griffin of the Community Renewal Society.
“Mayor Emanuel is refusing to address the issue of police brutality and the misuse of authority in black and brown communities…. In Chicago, African-Americans were subject to an estimated 69 percent of the stops. But we are only 33 percent of the city’s population…From 2009 to 2011, 92 percent of the subjects Tasered were African-American and Hispanics. They were ten times more likely to be shot.”
Protester Kelvin Anderson identified himself both as a “force leader” and as a victim of alleged police brutality. He described being stopped by police with weapons drawn near his grandparents’ house and being forced to the ground “as if I was an animal — as if I was a terrorist.”
Anderson wondered aloud what would have happened to him if his grandparents had not been there to intervene on his behalf.
He then asked Emanuel a direct question as if the mayor could hear him.
“Do black lives matter? Does my life matter to you?” Anderson said outside the mayor’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall.