Militant Journalism

Chicagoans protest police shooting of 13-year-old boy

At around 10:30 p.m. on May 18, on the 800 block of N. Cicero Ave., Chicago police shot and critically wounded a 13-year-old boy. Police say the boy was a passenger in a car that was suspected of involvement in a carjacking in a nearby suburb the day before. As of this writing, the boy remains hospitalized in critical condition, and the identities of the officer and the victim have not been released to the public.

Protesters gathered two days later in front of Chicago Police Headquarters to denounce the shooting and demand that Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown fire all killer cops.

Candice Choo-Kang with Justice for Anthony Alvarez told demonstrators that the boy’s shooting was reminiscent of past shootings by the police, including those of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez. 

“Earlier today, David Brown tweeted, ‘The Chicago Police Department refuses to let senseless acts of violence become commonplace,’ so why do they allow killer cops to parade around our streets? And a 13-year-old was shot in the back on Wednesday. Alvarez was shot in the back while running away. Toledo was shot with his hands raised in the air. Are those not acts of senseless violence?” she said.

The shooting comes a little over a year after the killing of Toledo by officer Eric Stillman. The death of Toledo, another 13-year-old child, garnered national attention and brought thousands into the streets of Chicago last year. Two days after the killing of Toledo, police officer Evan Solano shot and killed Alvarez. Alvarez’s family has been fighting for justice and demanding answers ever since. 

In a press conference on May 19, Brown sidestepped most questions. It has been 115 days since the Civilian Office of Police Accountability concluded its investigation into Alvarez’s killing and 36 days since the conclusion of the investigation of Toledo’s killing, yet Brown has remained silent. COPA has said the findings of these investigations will be made after Brown makes a decision on Solano and Stillman. Both officers remain on the payroll of CPD.   

COPA has begun a similar investigation into the May 18 shooting, but little information is currently available. A video shows at least five police officers chasing the 13-year-old boy into the lot of a Marathon gas station where they open fire and shoot him. The existing video is unclear but he appears to have been shot in his back though officers claim that he was turning around. With Toledo and Alvarez’s cases as reference, it could be several months before any information is released. 

Tanner Dx, with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, spoke to the systemic issues of the Chicago Police Department: “In 2017, the Justice Department investigated CPD and concluded that CPD is brutal, racist and continually violates our constitutional rights, something we all know. The police force was forced to accept a consent decree that would supposedly put the department’s practices in line with the constitution. What happened there? … Just this March CPD announced they’d need another three years to adhere to the Consent Decree. Do y’all think they’re ever going to follow it?”

Tanner continued later, telling the crowd that, “The system of policing is fundamentally broken.  We know that. It’s broken because it isn’t accountable to us, the working class.” 

In March of this year, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx also spoke of the systemic issues plaguing the Chicago Police Department. In a legal memo released on the Alvarez case, Foxx’s office said, “ While the above analysis has set forth the reasons why the evidence is insufficient to support criminal charges, it is important to highlight the system failures that lead to this deadly encounter through the creation of the very conditions, by the officers themselves, under which the use of deadly force became necessary. First, it was unnecessary for the officers to stop and engage with Alvarez, who was walking through a gas station parking lot holding food and drink, and not committing any crimes that were readily apparent to the officers at that time.“

Despite admitting to these failures, Foxx’s office refused to pursue criminal charges against Officers Stillman or Solano. 

Throughout the evening, the protestors’ demands were clear: All killer cops should be fired, tried and jailed. 

The mayor’s response

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned on promises of police reform, has instead chosen to focus on extending a curfew for Chicago’s youth. On May 25, the Chicago City Council in a 30 to 19 vote approved an expansion of the city’s curfew requested by Lightfoot. The curfew which previously began at 11 p.m. and included youth up until age 16, now starts at 10 p.m. and includes all children 17-years-old and younger. The curfew exempts youth who are returning home from ticketed events.

Opponents in the council argued it would worsen segregation in the city and cited studies showing curfew expansions led to increased gun violence in cities like Washington, D.C. Advocates of the curfew said it was needed because “kids have gotten out of control” and called for parents to be prosecuted if their children are out past curfew. 

Eli Galletas from the Party for Socialism and Liberation spoke on the priorities of Chicago’s Mayor: “Earlier this week Mayor Lori Lightgoot announced a reactionary and racist curfew for youth in Chicago. A few days later CPD shot another 13-year-old. We can clearly see that the priorities of Mayor Lightfoot are to criminalize and punish Black and Brown youth throughout Chicago.” 

Lightfoot has said the curfew is an attempt to curb rising violent crimes in the city. Galletas continued that the mayor’s policies do not address the foundational violence felt in working-class neighborhoods: “The violence in Chicago doesn’t start when someone shoots a gun. The foundational violence in this city is a system that uses poverty and racism to make a few people rich while the rest suffer. Lightfoot, like mayors across the country, wants to show that downtown is “safe and secure” to protect the profits of the real estate and tourism industries. These industries ruthlessly fight to avoid taxes, to keep wages low and to focus city resources downtown and in gentrified neighborhoods. Meanwhile the workers who actually make the city run, who are paid low wages, who are largely Black and Brown, are forced to live in communities that lack services.” 

Mayor Lightfoot has weaponized the city’s public spaces and infrastructure in the past. On May 30, 2020, Lightfoot infamously was the first Chicago mayor in decades to raise the bridges in the downtown district in an attempt to quell the uprising. Even in the 1968 protests of the Democratic National Convention, Mayor Daley, who cheered on police attacks on protesters, did not weaponize city infrastructure that way. For days afterwards, public transit would be shut down in parts of the city, checkpoints established and interstate exits and on-ramps were blocked in an attempt to stop mass public gatherings.

For the rest of the summer of 2020, city officials raised the bridges multiple times to protect the so-called “Magnificent Mile,” a high-end shopping district on the North Side of the Chicago River. As of 2022, city officials still deploy salt trucks and police will form up in skirmish lines to stop peaceful protests from crossing north over the river.

In August 2020, following the Chicago police shooting Latrell Allen, a 20-year-old Black man in Englewood, break-ins and thefts targeted several downtown retail stores. In response to this event, the city again restricted access to downtown, restricting access from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week. To enter the restricted areas in off-hours, the city said that “residents and employees should show identification or proof that they live in the area and/or work in the area.”

In September 2021, the day after car caravans flooded downtown to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, Chicago officials again implemented travel restrictions. When announcing the closures, local media said that police again declared that to access restricted areas, residents “must show identification to police officers to prove they work or live there.” 

Once again, on a week when Chicago police shot and critically wounded a 13-year-child, Mayor Lightfoot chose property over people. 

Feature photo: Protestors speak out against the shooting of a 13-year-old boy by Chicago police. Liberation photo

Related Articles

Back to top button