Photo: Protesters demand justice for Anthony Alvarez who was killed by Chicago police, March 31. Liberation photo
On April 3, more than 100 people gathered in downtown Chicago for a vigil and march in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King and victims of police and state violence. The event, sponsored by BLM Women of Faith and the Chicago branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, came at the end of a week in which three people, including a 13-year-old boy, were shot and killed by Chicago police.
“We’re trying to bring awareness to how many lives have been lost to violence by law enforcement,” Carolyn Ruff, cofounder of BLMWOF told Liberation News. The multinational rally featured speakers from a variety of groups including the Brown Berets, Black Lives Matter Lake County, and the NO MORE Foundation, as well families of victims of police violence. “The more people come together and we unify, even if we have differences in our organizations, we stand stronger and we have a louder voice,” said Ruff.
Just three days before the rally, 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez was shot and killed by Chicago police on the city’s Northwest Side. His cousin Roxana Figueroa told the crowd that her family was trying to get answers from the police. “My aunt was there that night, trying to figure out if that was her missing son and they pushed her away,” said Figueroa. “To this day they still haven’t said why they were chasing him. He was literally right around the corner from his house. There have been neighbors that have come up and said that he raised his hands up to surrender, and they still shot him.”
Figueroa said that the day after the shooting, “We went to light candles at the scene of the crime. We asked [the police] respectfully. … There was nothing but candles, flowers and broken hearts. They said yes, and as soon as we turned our backs the cops started throwing everything away.” Family members spoke with Liberation News that night and posted video of the police actions.
Speakers called for justice for the other victims of police killings, including Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on March 29.
The parents of Joel Acevedo, who was killed by an off-duty Milwaukee police officer in April 2020, traveled in from Milwaukee to address the crowd. Michael Mattioli, who was allowed to resign from the Milwaukee Police Department, pleaded not guilty in the choke-hold death of Acevedo at a private party at Mattioli’s house.
Maribel Acevedo broke down in tears as she remembered the last time she saw her son. “It makes me sick. They treat the Black and Brown community like our life don’t matter. This is why we are here, to stand because our lives matter and our kids’ lives matter,” she said.
Jose Acevedo said the family would continue to fight for justice for their son in court. “The same people he put his trust in were the same people that took his life away. That is a disgrace,” he said. “I am my son’s voice, my wife is my son’s voice and we are going to fight for justice.”
The family of Cortez Bufford also traveled to Chicago for the vigil. The 24-year-old was shot and killed by St. Louis police in December 2019. “He was a fun loving person, happy, always a hard worker,” Bufford’s father Antoine told Liberation News. “He was just was going to the store to get a Gatorade and a cigarette and he ended up dead.”
Clyde McLemore, founder of Black Lives Matter Lake County, spoke about the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., in August 2020, as well as the subsequent protests in which Kyle Rittenhouse killed two activists. McLemore has been charged in connection with the protests, where police seemed more concerned with protecting private property than people’s lives. “All that stuff is rebuilt, but Jacob is in a wheelchair,” he said.
The crowd took to the streets and marched through Chicago’s downtown. The chants stressed defunding the police and naming the victims of police violence. The marchers received a positive reception from onlookers.
Lamar Whitfiled, founder of the NO MORE Foundation, hoped the rally would help rekindle the the activism seen in the wake of George Floyd’s killing last summer. “We need people to come out of their houses into the street and physically stand in solidarity,” he told Liberation News. “Seeing that it’s still happening will bring the people and reignite the thing we had last year.”
A fundraiser has been set up for the family of Anthony Alvarez who leaves behind a two-year-old daughter.