On March 16, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that the Chicago police officers who fatally shot 13-year old Adam Toledo and 22-year old Anthony Alvarez would not face criminal charges. The shootings, which occurred only a few days apart, lead to mass protests in the summer of 2021. Since then, the Party for Socialism and Liberation has been organizing with the Alvarez family and other organizations to demand justice for those who have been killed at the hands of the Chicago Police Department.
On the evening of March 29, 2021, Toledo was shot and killed in the Little Village community on the West Side of the city. Officer Eric Stillman claimed that Adam Toledo was carrying a gun, but the body camera footage that was released 18 days after his death showed that Toledo’s hands were empty when he raised them in compliance with Stillman’s orders. Racist and victim-blaming narratives from the police continued to shift throughout the following months of the investigation, leading to protests and actions to demand clarity and justice for the slain teenager.
During the press conference, Foxx stated that, “Officer Stillman reacted to the perceived threat presented by Adam Toledo who he believed at the time was turning toward him to shoot him,” and that, “Based on the facts, the evidence and the law, we found that there’s no evidence to prove that Officer Stillman acted with criminal intent.”
Foxx went on to state that Stillman may have violated the city’s foot chase policy, but this is grossly inadequate considering that Stillman will still not face charges and may not even face disciplinary actions from the superintendent pending any further investigations.
Two days after Toledo’s death on March 31, 2021, Anthony Alvarez was killed by police officer Evan Solano while making his way home. Alvarez was leaving a gas station with snacks when Solano and his partner made an unprompted stop that culminated in Alvarez fleeing before being shot in the back near his house in the Portage Park neighborhood on the city’s Northwest Side.
Alvarez’s family has consistently questioned why Alvarez was the target of harassment and has received no solid answers. In addition, the family has faced continued harassment from the 16th precinct police and the right-wing aldermen in the neighborhood, in the form of intimidation at protests and even destroying memorials created in memory of Alvarez. Through the strength and support of the community surrounding them, the Alvarez family withstood these fascist threats and created a “little library” in honor of Alvarez at the site where he was killed.
Foxx, after revealing that no criminal charges would be filed, attempted to leverage criticism towards Solano and his partner by saying that the officers “created the conditions in which the use of deadly force became necessary.” Not only was the criticism short-sighted, but it showed the negligence of the criminal justice system to provide solutions to the plague of police terror. The hypocrisy was clear: If the police were creating the conditions for the deaths of Adam and Anthony, then they were also culpable.
In the face of this hypocrisy, a protest was called on March 16 to demand that Foxx revoke her decision. With the Alvarez family leading the crowd, dozens of people showed up in support, including organizers from People United Albany Park, Chicago Torture Justice Center, New Era Young Lords, Make Noize for Change, Justice for Nickolas Lee, Little Village Community Council and Únete La Villita. The crowd marched from Federal Plaza to the offices of the State’s Attorney, where chants echoed throughout the central business district of the Loop.
Kamran Siddiqi, an organizer with PSL and the emcee of the speakout, noted that Foxx’s statements were contradictory and hypocritical, “With elections around the corner, the politically opportunistic nature of these statements should not be lost on anyone. Despite these same public officials campaigning on promises of police reform and racial justice, we can’t count on them to carry out any justice. In fact, they’re obstructing justice right now.”
Relating back to the contradictions of the current situation, Siddiqi also reminded people that it was the masses of people acting together that got CPD officer Jason Van Dyke convicted for the murder of Laquan McDonald — while it was politicians who allowed for his early release.
Roxana Figueroa, cousin of Alvarez and leader of the Justice for Anthony Alvarez coalition, began her speech by criticizing the negligence of Foxx, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown, saying: “There’s no reason we have to keep hearing his last words [in the video] — they didn’t even give him a chance. We are very disappointed, but we are going to keep fighting. We still have hopes that Superintendent David Brown fires him, and that there are federal charges brought against him.”
Figueroa further told the audience not to let up on the momentum for struggle: “We need to come back harder and come back louder.” Reiterating the themes of history and the present, we know that only the unity and action of the masses can bring about change in the face of a negligent ruling class.
Samuel Francis, from People United Albany Park, closed out the night with an analysis of Foxx’s press release: “Let me make this clear — a capitalist system with the highest prison population in history will never protect us. A capitalist system with the highest funded police and military budget in the history of the world will not keep us safe. A capitalist system that lets nearly one million working people die from a global pandemic will never protect us. One day of organizing and materially supporting your community is worth a lifetime of voting for these corrupt politicians. It’s time to organize and unite as workers to create a system that keeps us safe.”
Francis ended his speech by eloquently summing up the evening by presenting the dialectical and factual nature of the people’s struggle, “This isn’t the end of our struggle, it’s only the beginning.”