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Protesters Shut Down Rahm's Police Task Force Meeting: 'We Don't Trust You'

By Linze Rice | February 25, 2016 8:07pm | Updated on February 25, 2016 9:52pm
 A police task force meeting in Rogers Park ended earlier after protesters took to the stage and began a rally.
Police Task Force Meeting
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ROGERS PARK — Members of the Police Accountability Task Force were escorted from the stage by police officers two hours early Thursday night after the last of four public meetings erupted in chaos at Sullivan High School, with protesters chanting long after task force members left.

Just about a half-hour into the public comment portion of the program, protesters who had signed up to speak their piece took control of the room, decrying police violence against people of color and refusing to yield their time.

Their main message was that the five-member task force, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December 2015 after the release of the Laquan McDonald video, was a "PR stunt" that would ultimately ignore the wishes of everyday citizens in favor of police and politicians.

"Give us what we ask for, we don't need no task force," they chanted.

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Protesters then took to the stage and clashed with other attendees who wanted time to speak — which led to pushing and shoving in the crowd, including some security guards, after which the five task force members in attendance left the stage. At one point, a protester is heard yelling "Do not touch me!" though it's unclear to whom the statement was directed.

The meeting at Sullivan, 6631 N. Bosworth Ave., began with comments from Principal Chad Adams and Police Board President and task force chairwoman Lori Lightfoot. The majority of the meeting was supposed to be dedicated to public comment. Residents signed up to speak for two minutes each.

About 10 other people addressed the panel, largely echoing the demands of protesters, accusing the police of systemic racism and demanding that the task force include community input while addressing systemic issues in the Chicago Police Department.

Other residents spoke for about half an hour before the first member of a group of yellow-shirted protesters, some from the Black Lives Matter group BYP100 and related activist organizations, took to the podium.

The protesters called for the firing of Chicago Police detective Dante Servin, who shot and killed Rekia Boyd in 2012 but has not been fired by the Police Department,  despite former Police Supt. Garry McCarthy's official recommendation to do so last year.

"Rekia Boyd's killer, Dante Servin, has gone unchecked for nearly four years, yet ... you silence [Boyd's family] and tell them every month that their time is up," one speaker said, referring to the near monthly efforts by Boyd's family to get answers from the Police Board about Servin's fate.

Those same protesters brought signs with the #SayHerName hashtag that's been used nationally to highlight the mistreatment of women in black communities at the hands of police.

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Expressing outrage at the Police Department and the task force, the protesters began chanting from their seats and waving signs and refused to yield the podium to the next speakers.

As the forum host urged calm and order, protesters moved to the front of the stage as the task force looked on — with a few protesters taking to the stage floor before being forced to leave by police.

Several residents clashed with protesters, who said the group was taking too much time away from others who wanted to speak .

Protesters stood their ground, and read from a script some had brought along which included a list of demands to the task force and Police Department, as well as a list of injustices that have occurred in Chicago. It wasn't until the movement in the crowd got physical that the task force members left.

With the meeting ending about two hours early, residents began to leave, and protesters led the charge into Sullivan High School's front foyer, where after a brief chant they continued to speak and rally peacefully outside.

Earlier in the public comment section, residents who were not affiliated with activists called for more community involvement when it came to creating a task force and also called the current hand-picked mayoral group a public relations move.

Resident Steve Craig told the task force that groups like theirs "just change little details about the Police Department," but fail to make real change.

One speaker wearing a "Stop Police Crimes" shirt suggested positive transformation in the Police Department could only happen when new officers are brought in and trained.

"Racism will never, ever go away unless there's a new generation [of police officers]," she said. "We don't trust you,  and we don't trust the mayor. You will only restore trust when you let the people lead the way."

Leslie Combs spoke on behalf of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the Democrat from Illinois' 9th District and a Sullivan grad.

Combs had a simple plea: "Really, listen to the community."

Michael Harrington, a member of the Rogers Park political group Network 49, said he was "outraged by police violence and racism" and insisted it was "more than just a few bad apples" who were responsible for problems in the Police Department and Fraternal Order of Police.

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