On July 27, police in Oak Lawn — a suburb southwest of Chicago — were filmed assaulting Hadi Abultelh, an Arab teenager. In a video that spread rapidly online, officers can be seen punching him multiple times in the head as he was pinned to the ground. The teenager was hospitalized with severe injuries.
On July 28, over 100 community members rallied outside the Oak Lawn police station and were met by a heavy police presence while local officials gave a press conference attempting to justify the brutal assault.
This act of police violence was not an isolated incident.
On July 10, south suburban Flossmoor police shot and killed Madeline Miller while responding to a domestic incident at a home. Miller was a 64-year-old Black woman who was shot as she was exiting the home after officers ordered her to “get outside.” An officer shot her immediately after she left the door, and two seconds later, another officer shot her two more times.
On July 18, the Flossmoor village board meeting was flooded with people demanding justice after the killing. Multiple people spoke asking Flossmoor officials to take action to stop future killings by the police. Iown Fields, sister of Madeline Miller, spoke out against the police statements, which described Miller only as a threat to police, saying, “I just want you guys to know that [Madeline’s] a human being, and that’s my momma’s baby.”
When village officials refused to change an agenda focused on tree planting to an agenda focused on policing, most of the crowd began chanting and walked out in protest.
These two incidents occurred around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Alexis Wilson by Dolton police. Wilson was assaulted and shot by Dolton police in the early morning hours of July 27, 2021. Despite months of protests, lawsuits and political instability inside the village, the police officers who killed Wilson have yet to be disciplined or fired.
On July 27, family and friends held a memorial celebrating Alexis Wilson on the anniversary of her death. Dozens of people came out to the event in suburban Homewood.
A number of family members and friends of Wilson spoke about their love for her, and a few performed dances and poems. Christian Ellis, brother of Alexis Wilson and the emcee of the memorial, concluded the speakout by saying, “We’re going to keep fighting. Whether it’s social media or the court, we’re going to keep fighting for Lexi.”
These repeated acts of racist police terror are occuring in an area where police are almost never officially disciplined for shootings or other forms of brutality. In an analysis from local media that examined police activity in the Chicago suburbs from 2005 to 2020, in 135 cases, no officer was ever disciplined, fired or charged for a shooting that occured on duty. These shootings largely occurred in the south and southwest suburbs, and the victims were mostly Black.
Police shootings in the Chicago suburbs are investigated by the Illinois State Police, and local departments and municipalities commonly use those investigations as an excuse to not take further action against officers.
Abuses by police have a long history in the Chicago suburbs. It was suburban Maywood police who framed Fred Hampton for an ice cream truck robbery in 1968. However, suburban police have historically not faced as much public scrutiny or organized resistance as police inside Chicago proper. The protests and organizing seen in recent weeks are a sign that suburban Chicago communities are beginning to push back against police abuses.
Like most of the country, many of these suburbs saw protests during the 2020 Revolt Against Racism. These protests led to few reforms at the local level, but they taught many local organizers and community members that it was possible to mobilize against police locally.
The movement against racist police terror continues to organize and build. Organizers and community members in Flossmoor plan to once again pack the village’s board meeting on August 1. They will begin gathering at 2800 Flossmoor Road at 6:30 p.m. to prepare and rally.
Feature photo: Protesters rally outside of Flossmoor Village Hall on July 18. Liberation photo.