On Feb. 29, Black Lives Matter Chicago protested yet another case of police brutality in the city. Less than 24 hours earlier witnesses had released cellphone videos showing police macing, tasing and shooting an unarmed man who had allegedly moved from one train car to another.
“He was followed off the train, he was Tased, he was maced multiple times,” Ariel Atkins, a lead organizer for Black Lives Matter Chicago told the crowd of close to 50 people. The demonstration took place outside the Grand Red Line station where the shooting had occurred. Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation were among those who answered the call to join the protest.
As the crowd responded “That ain’t right,” Atkins described what happened: “A cop said ‘shoot him’ five times, multiple times that cop said ‘shoot him’ while he was on the ground. And when he got up completely disoriented, they shot him point blank and chased him up the stairs.” Police then shot the Latino man again in the crowded train station before he was taken to hospital in critical condition.
The shooting came just one week into Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s crackdown on crime on the city’s transit system. “Lori Lightfoot has upped the police presence on the trains. We got SWAT on the trains. In what world does it look like that we have SWAT in full gear on the m-f-ing trains?” Atkins asked the crowd. “In a police state,” came the reply.
Atkins went on to demand the removal of police and SWAT teams from the city’s transit system, freedom for the victims of police torture still being held in Chicago’s jails, community-based accessible and affordable housing, adding that Chicago should remains a true sanctuary city and that its police not cooperate with ICE. In a moving tribute to the victims of police brutality, she read out the names, ages and dates of death of 99 people killed by the police on the streets of Chicago.
During a speak out, demonstrators called for community control of the police, freedom for Gerald Reed and the other inmates wrongly imprisoned by the notorious police torturer Jon Burge, a free public transit system and an end to racist police killings.
Patrick McWilliams of PSL Chicago closed out the demonstration with a call to action. “The CTA is our space. There should be no cops and it should be absolutely free,” he said. “We need to come together to keep the struggle going. That’s the only way we’re going to win. It starts like this, then hundreds, then thousands, then millions until they can’t ignore our movement for justice.”
Editor’s note: As of March 2, police shooting victim Ariel Roman remains in hospital in critical condition. Charges of resisting arrest and a narcotics charge against him have been dropped.