In Person Report, April 28, 2015
“By what right do they insult us, in so intolerable a way?”—James Baldwin
What is the truth about Freddie Gray’s death? The truth is that he was murdered by the notoriously racist and brutal Baltimore Police. Baltimore has exploded in anger because of the attempt to obscure this obvious fact, to pretend that the basic life experience of Black people over the last five decades, if not the entirety of U.S. history, can be dissolved into a social mystery. This generation serves notice: that shell game is over.
The same clarity over the system’s guilt was displayed by the hundreds of determined youth who took to the streets of Chicago in solidarity with the Baltimore protests. By no coincidence, the Chicago establishment attempted a similar cover-up in the trial of Chicago Officer Dante Servin for his cold-blooded murder of Rekia Boyd in 2012.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez made sure that charges against Servin were formulated so that he could be found not guilty through rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Although he was off duty when he murdered Rekia, and used an unregistered gun, and fired over his shoulder from his car, yet on April 19 charges of “involuntary manslaughter” and “reckless conduct” were dismissed because one of his shots hit the man he says he was aiming at, Rekia’s boyfriend Antonio Cross, who was holding a cell phone.
Questionable legal precedent holds that if a cop hits the person he aims at, he can’t be found guilty of recklessness—no matter who else he shoots and kills. This is a “legalism” that stinks of totalitarianism.
On April 28, hundreds gathered outside Chicago Police Department headquarters, at 35th and Michigan, to show love and respect for Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and all the others whose Black lives matter. The crowd was largely young and multicultural.
Sponsors included We Charge Genocide, Black Lives Matter—Chicago, Black Youth Project 100; and it was striking that many of the young people there had previously been active in Occupy Chicago. Speakers, including Airicka Gordon-Taylor, a relative of Emmett Till, kept the focus on Black history as revolutionary history.
Following the rally, hundreds marched through the South Side, taking the streets despite opposition from the police. (Gentrification of the area is striking, prompting one demonstrator to suggest the slogan, “Reparations, not Gentrification!”) We marched and chanted down 35th Street, Cottage Grove, and Drexel to 55th Street, with police finally drawing a line at the University of Chicago where years of protests have targeted the University’s refusal to open a trauma center to South Side victims of violence. The intersection of 55th and Cottage Grove was then blocked.
As the marchers proceeded through the South Side streets, the demonstration continued to grow, at least a few hundred people joining en route.
This movement will also continue and grow. With the Rekia Boyd non-verdict, the Chicago establishment meant to send the eternal message of capitalist society—the rebellion is over, and it’s back to business as usual. In Baltimore, Chicago, Ferguson, a new generation of revolutionaries sent back the message: From now on, there will be no business as usual!