On Sept. 16, protesters gathered in front of the 16th District Police Station in Jefferson Park, a predominantly white neighborhood on the Northwest Side of Chicago, to denounce the Chicago Police. The action was organized by the Chicago Branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and called in response to a pro-police, Back-the-Blue rally and fundraiser being held by Aldermen Jim Gardiner, Anthony Napolitano and Nicholas Sposato.
Before the rally was even scheduled to begin, police had sectioned off the street in front of the police station for a large crowd of pro-police demonstrators, many unmasked, who had gathered with blue-lives-matter and Trump 2020 flags. Organizers of the counterprotest had planned on a series of speakers from local organizations followed by a community speak-out. However, the group of 25 protesters were almost immediately met with hostility from hundreds of pro-police demonstrators, who tried to shove away their bullhorns and signs calling for racial justice. After several contentious minutes, the police established a barrier between the two groups using vehicles and a line of officers facing the counterprotesters.
David Merdano from H.E.R Chicago expressed surprise at the police’s actions telling Liberation News that: “With all the racist vitriol from the pro-police side and the fact that several demonstrators were breaking the police line to get in our faces or to sneak up behind us, I was really shocked that CPD (Chicago Police Department) faced us the entire time with several officers patrolling nearby in case we stepped off the sidewalk.”
Earlier in the week Alderman Napolitano appeared on WGN Radio720 to promote the pro-cop rally and call for an increase in the police force by citing the rising number of homicides in the city. These comments came despite CPD’s dismal homicide clearance rate, a rate which is calculated by police department statisticians and one that is even lower when the victim is Black. Dr. Lashawn Littrice from Black Lives Matter Women of Faith, who was scheduled to speak at the counterprotest, told Liberation News about growing up on the South Side of Chicago: “As a little girl growing up in Englewood, I literally thought it was the police’s job to harass ordinary people because that’s all I saw. In my household, we were told you don’t go near the police, you don’t talk to the police and you surely don’t call the police.”
Throughout the pro-police rally, counterprotesters chanted slogans such as “Black lives matter” and “16 shots and a coverup,” referring to the killing of the teenager Laquan McDonald by former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. They held signs that read “Cops out of CPS” (Chicago Public Schools) and “Housing for all.” The pro-police rally, which was set to feature several speakers, ended early with many attendees still occupied with the counter-protest which had doubled in size people chanting for racial justice.
Merdano told Liberation News about the sense of solidarity he felt in the crowd, saying: “Although we were outnumbered and there were many people yelling threats at us, I didn’t feel nervous because I saw how people in the group were keeping each other safe and felt a sense of unity.” When asked what was accomplished by their presence, Littrice told Liberation News that: “I felt it was important to come out here today and not let them have their rally for the police in peace. Because it really was a rally for white supremacy, and like we keep chanting, if you aren’t going to give us justice then we won’t give you peace.”