Photo: Protesters demand justice for Anthony Alvarez, who was killed by Chicago police March 31. Liberation photo
The Chicago branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation organized a May Day event to bring attention to the recent police killing of Anthony Alvarez. The rally and march took place in Portage Park on Chicago’s Northwest Side on the one-month anniversary of Alvarez’s killing.
On March 31, Alvarez was shot and killed by Chicago police officer Evan Solano only minutes from his house. For nearly a month, the Chicago Police Department refused to release body-cam footage or give details to the family. When the video was finally released, it showed Alvarez fleeing the police. However, no answers were given as to why he was being chased, and to this day his family is still left without answers.
The May Day event drew a crowd of approximately 200 people of all ages, races and walks of life. They began by chanting Alvarez’s name while family members held banners adorned with photos of him and read his last words, “Why are you shooting me?”
Organizers called for justice for Alvarez and all victims of police violence. They also called for the arrest of Officer Salano and an end to the intimidation and harassment of the Alvarez family by the police and to all police foot pursuits in Chicago.
Summer Pappachen of the Party for Socialism and Liberation spoke first of the deep history of the struggle for workers’ rights in Chicago and the importance of continuing this struggle in unity. “This is how America treats its essential workers,” she said. She detailed the utter lack of care or resources given to all those who could not work from home during the pandemic and were forced each day to put themselves at risk with the threat of losing their jobs. She made clear that class cannot be ignored when looking at police brutality. The police exist to serve and protect capital, and historically have been used to oppress workers. Sowing revolutionary optimism, she urged everyone to not be discouraged in the fight for justice, as “it is a beautiful thing to be part of the working class.”
Jim Santoyo of the ANSWER Coalition — Act Now to Stop War and End Racism — denounced the tendency of the Northwest Side to be a haven for police and police apologists. He called the CPD “the biggest and most violent gang in Chicago.” He highlighted Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s prioritization of the police over all else, allocating 40% of the budget to the CPD while community programs fall by the wayside. He said of the Mayor, “Lori Lightfoot loaded the gun that Evan Salano used to kill Anthony Alvarez.” A father, Santoyo noted that Alvarez leaves behind a young daughter, and said that the fact that so many children must carry the burden of losing their parents to police violence is an incredibly heavy and sobering realization.
Alvarez’s aunt Teresa Martinez spoke on behalf of the family. She remembered Alvarez as a loving, humble man who was always willing to lend a helping hand and loved his daughter above all else. She spoke of the pain and grief this loss has caused the family, and of the anger felt due to the police constantly pushing them away, refusing to give answers and resorting to intimidation. Maintaining her composure even through the emotional recounting of the past month, she reiterated the family’s demands for justice and the jailing of the officer who killed Alvarez.
Following these words, the group marched to the site of Alvarez’s killing where his family has been keeping a memorial. Leaders of BLM Women of Faith roused the group in a powerful chant of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” reminding those present of Alvarez and the countless others who have been shot and killed while running from the police.
At the site of the memorial the crowd circled up once more, with both members of activist organizations and the community coming forward to speak.
Vichina Austin of the Black Alliance for Peace made clear the long-standing relationship between police violence and capitalism. Austin drew attention to the 1033 program, which uses the excess of military equipment created by overproduction to arm police departments across the country, turning them into an occupying force. Bringing up the historical connection between the slave patrols of early America and current policing, she solidified the fact that the police exist only to “serve and protect” the interests of capitalism, and that we as revolutionaries must care for and defend ourselves.
Members of the community expressed their grief and anger toward the murder of Alvarez. A young man who gave the pseudonym AJ told Liberation News candidly that he felt afraid: “I almost didn’t come out today. I keep thinking what if I’m next, like what if I’m just minding my own business walking and some cop kills me because he doesn’t like the way I look. I mean they killed a 13-year-old [Adam Toledo], they’ll kill anyone.” He went on to say: “But I’m not going to let them make me be scared my whole life. Someone’s gotta change this, so that’s why I’m here, even if I get killed.”
Amid the solemnity of the day, there was a clear feeling of hope. The energy of people ready to stand together to fight for justice buzzed through the crowd. Karla, a young mother, expressed a connection to the Alvarez family as her partner and son’s father Marc Nevarez was killed by police last year while running away. She urged people to stay strong and harness their feelings to work toward change. She said of her late partner, and all those killed, “I hope they’re watching us and know how hard we’re working for them.”