Protesters block I-290 in Chicago last night. [Image via Brittany Levine.]
Yesterday, after Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with murder for killing 17-year-old black teenager Laquan McDonald with 16 shots, the police public released video of the shooting. Protesters took to Chicago's streets, agitating for justice on behalf of Laquan McDonald and, as ever, raising awareness around the issue of police violence, in the hopes of preventing any more deaths like McDonald's.
While the demonstrations, which at times blocked some of Chicago's busy Interstate highways, were largely peaceful, some turned confrontational during the night.And the police's response was violence and aggression. They also arrested Malcolm London, along with three other leaders of the Black Youth Project 100, a black social justice youth organization in Chicago. Earlier in the day, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who is an opportunistic scoundrel) sought to meet with London and others, and they refused, knowing it would be a charade as part of Emanuel's bid to avoid demonstrations in Chicago. I'm sure, ahem, it's just a coincidence then that later the same day, London was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault, despite the fact that he was "just standing there" when police grabbed him.
Skirmishes broke out between protesters and police, who surrounded officers after they apparently made arrests. Protesters also tried to stop a police SUV from leaving with arrestees — an effort that failed. As the sound of sirens filled the air, police were met with shouts of "16 shots" — the number of times the officer charged with murder fired at Laquan McDonald, 17, in October 2014 — and "No Black Friday!" Some protesters showed up in gas masks, and some pushed against a police line, but no smoke or tear gas came.
In dramatic standoffs, some protesters stared down police as cameras snapped.
"When we say 'F—k the police,' that's not just because … we think that s—t is something cool," one protester said. "That is a response!"
That police specifically targeted BYP100 organizers for arrest is not a coincidence. It is a deliberate strategy to intimidate, discourage, demoralize, and terrorize young black activists in Chicago.
Thus proving the need for those activists in the first place.
This protest was about justice for Laquan McDonald and about accountability for police violence. But, like every Black Lives Matter protest, it was about so much more. It's about all the police violence against the black community in Chicago. It's about overpolicing in black communities, the sort of policing in which police aren't there to serve the community but contain and oppress them. It's about Homan Square. It's about profound segregation and entrenched institutional racism. It's about the spectrum of systemic violence and marginalization of black people committed by a white supremacist city, state, and nation. It's about making black lives matter, in every way.
And there are an awful lot of white people who regard each of these protests as singular events. Who don't understand that this protest is intimately connected to the protest in Minneapolis, at which black protesters were shot by white supremacists. And to the fight for justice for Sandra Bland. And Rekia Boyd. And Michael Brown. And John Crawford. And Jonathan Ferrell. And Eric Garner. And Oscar Grant. And Freddie Gray. And Andre Green. And Darrien Hunt. And Kajieme Powell. And Tamir Rice. And Tony Robinson. And Walter Scott. And Charles Smith. And for those killed by white people other than police, like the victims of the AME Church Shooting, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, and Darius Simmons. And for black women for whom self-protection laws don't apply, like Marissa Alexander and the Jersey 4 and CeCe McDonald. And for black women whose need is criminalized, like Shanesha Taylor and Laura Browder and Moina Lucious.
And school segregation, and job discrimination, and housing discrimination, and wealth inequality, and pay disparity, and mass incarceration, and municipal violations, and fair legal representation, and the disproportionate application of the death penalty, and lack of meaningful visibility, and unequal opportunities, and access to healthcare, and millions of microaggressions, and white people (and other non-black people) doubting whether anti-black racism really still exists and auditing the ways black people try to address it and accusing them of looking for things to get mad about and screaming BOOTSTRAPS at them and calling them oversensitive.
My pal Dan Solomon posted the following on Facebook, which I'm sharing with his permission, drawing a line between the white supremacist shooting at the protest in Minneapolis this week and the scolding of black students advocating for safe spaces on college campuses:
Okay, here is the thing about Black Lives Matter protests and all the I'm-just-a-reasonable-white-guy whining about how the kids are all way too sensitive and don't deserve their "safe spaces" -- the space outside of a fucking *police station* in Minneapolis wasn't safe. If they want to talk about the way that black lives are at very real risk in this country, they are at risk of being fucking *shot* for it. The idea that they're not equipped for the "real world" because they want safe spaces on their campuses when the world tells them over and over again that they don't get safe spaces, that a space that is super safe for someone like me is actually dangerous as hell for them, is such heavy, condescending bullshit that anybody who spouts it should have fucking asphyxiated by now.In Chicago last night, protesters marched for safety. The kind of safety that so many white people take for granted. And the police responded by arresting one of their leaders on a trumped-up charge based on the claim that he assaulted them.
Every time black protesters go to the street to talk about this, they are aware that they are not safe. They get shot. They get beaten. They get gassed. They are aware that they get shot and beaten and gassed. They are *willing* to get shot and beaten and gassed. It's not because their tactics are too aggressive or they snatched a mic from Bernie fucking Sanders, it's because the world is filled with racist people who will shoot and beat and gas them. Motherfuckers, you'd want a "safe space" too.
Are you getting it yet?