While most families on Memorial Day were enjoying barbecue, the family of Anthony Alvarez was mourning. After visiting the cemetery where Alvarez is buried, they gathered at the memorial constructed near the site of his killing at the hands of Chicago Police Department officer Evan Solano. Children played as the adults talked and remembered Alvarez. This peace was interrupted by the arrival of the CPD.
Sgt. Joseph Schachelmayer lumbered toward the Alvarez family. “Where is your attorney? Where is your attorney or someone who speaks English?” asked the officer. “We all speak English,” replied the assembled crowd in unison. In this video, you can see Schachelmayer walk over to the family and patronizingly tell them they can have a memorial for a few minutes, but that they need to clean it up because it is on city property. He then proceeded to rip down two signs on the memorial and threatened that the city would sue the family if there was a traffic incident.
This is not the first time that the CPD has attempted to destroy memorials to Alvarez. On the day that he was killed, the Alvarez family asked the police if they could set up a memorial at that location. The police said it was OK if the memorial was not on private property. The Alvarez family made their memorial on a patch of grass near the street where Anthony was gunned down in cold blood by Solano. Later that night, the police went back on their word and destroyed the initial memorial.
The Alvarez family was undeterred after the first memorial was torn down. They rebuilt and have participated in multiple protests bringing Alvarez’s case into the local, national and international spotlight. After a May 1 protest that galvanized community support, the Alvarez family and the Party for Socialism and Liberation faced down fascist alderman Nicholas Sposato, Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara and the entirety of the 16th Police Precinct where killer cop Evan Solano works on May 29. Schachelmayer mentioned that protest when telling the Alvarez family to tear down the memorial, implying some level of retaliation against the family for their militant stance.
On June 1, Alvarez’s memorial was torn down for a second time. No time was wasted in setting up another.
If the memorial is on city property it belongs to the people. The memorial deserves to remain up because it is of, by and for the people. Social movements must strongly reject the lie that the police have any right to tell the Alvarez family what to do. There are many memorials across the city and suburbs for victims of traffic accidents. The police clearly have a political vendetta against the family of Alvarez. Because the family has dared to challenge the power of the police and city government, they are receiving threats and harassment. The movement for justice will not give ONE INCH to the lies of the police and city.
This struggle is an ongoing struggle. Across the country, police are attempting to dismantle monuments to the revolt against racism, the revolt against the state and memories of the victims of racist police violence. In Minneapolis there is a developing struggle around George Floyd Square. George Floyd Square was erected outside of the Cup foods where Floyd was murdered. It has become a major hub for organizing and is a monument to Black liberation and struggle. The police along with the city of Minneapolis are conspiring to dismantle the entirety of the square, including flower and gardening beds, art pieces, statues, barricades and more. The struggle over space is an important symbolic struggle and we must be active in this defense of space in opposition to the state.
If you want to keep track of updates in this rapidly developing struggle, help with memorial defense, participate in a future protest or get involved in the fight for justice for Alvarez, follow the Facebook page Justice for Anthony Alvarez.
Feature photo: The memorial to Anthony Alvarez who was killed by Chicago police officer Evan Solano March 31. Liberation photo