On June 12, Party for Socialism and Liberation Chicago held a community forum on the United States of Violence at the Chicago Liberation Center. With the recent Uvalde school shooting, being only one of the more than 200 mass shootings this year, it is clear that there is a violence epidemic in the United States. PSL Chicago invited six community members to speak about their experience with youth violence.
A common thread among the speakers was the ineffectiveness of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to curtail violence. Instead she is criminalizing youth.
As Jim Santoyo, a PSL member pointed out, “There’s an active campaign of fearmongering and hate from Lori Lightfoot and her handpicked [police] superintendent David Brown. If you believed them … every one of us was going to be carjacked or murdered on our way to the office, and it would be gangs of youths doing it. And the biggest problem would be the parents of these fictional youths.”
Lightfoot recently implemented a curfew for minors, after saying that an increase in violence is due to unaccompanied children. Apart from blaming children, her solution to violence has been to increase the police budget. However, community members speaking at the forum shared how police have only further harmed youth.
Paul Morales, a member of the Young Lords, told forum attendees that he recently saw “Fifty cops stand on a corner, [letting] the gangs from both sides of the street, talk [expletive] to each other. [Gang members] walked into a crowd with families and children … and only one cop followed them.” A verbal altercation between gang members broke out and it was Morales and another Young Lord who were standing between the crowd, the cops and the gangs, to protect the crowd.
Elias Decker from CPS Alumni for Abolition spoke on police presence in schools. Chicago Public Schools have a contract with the Chicago Police Department to place police officers in schools to promote safe environments. “When we first got started in June 2020, there were two of them in every CPS high school,” said Decker. CPS Alumni for Abolition collected testimonials and found that students had been thrown down a flight of stairs, body slammed and beaten by school resource officers. Although the group was able to take police officers out of Northside High School, they still remain in the majority of CPS schools.
Nicholas Stender, a teacher and member of Reds in Ed, described the disinvestment in schools as a form of violence. “What are the resources denied to us? We require books and librarians … our schools need nurses. We need counselors and mental health services for our young people.”
He continued by asking, “What does it say about the inhumanity of the capitalist system … to take away the resources our young people desire and require?” The Chicago Teacher’s Union has repeatedly asked for basic resources. Yet Lightfoot’s administration will be slashing Chicago Public School’s budget, despite the district receiving $2.8 billion in federal COVID relief funds. Her disinvestment in education further proves her disinterest in protecting the youth.
“We’ve already been doing the work that the politicians claim to do,” shared an activist and teacher who goes by the name of That Kid From Pilsen. Multiple speakers urged attendees to continue educating themselves and organizing.
Stender assured, “We will not allow our children to suffer the despair of this capitalist system for a single moment longer. In fact, we are calling for an end to all criminalization of youth.”