Militant Journalism

Protest vs. cop killing in Chicago suburb met with heavy police repression

On September 1, a protest in Dolton, Illinois, calling for justice for Alexis Wilson was met with police repression and the arrest of four people. Organizers had planned to march to a meeting held by the mayor outside of the Chicago suburb’s village hall. The 20 protesters who arrived immediately faced arrests and repression. Everyone arrested has since been released. 

Alexis Wilson was killed by Dolton police in the early hours of July 27. She was in her car at the drive-thru of the local restaurant Baba’s when police were called. The caller said she was knocking on the drive-thru window with a gun, but video from the restaurant shows her holding a long object, not a gun. Family says Wilson was waiting to get her order or a refund from the restaurant.

Wilson was 19-years old and was going to start college in a few weeks.

In other body camera footage released, police arrived and asked her to exit the car, and she told them that she didn’t have clothes underneath a robe she was wearing. A police officer on the driver’s side of the car appeared to punch Wilson while a police officer on the passenger side climbed into the car through the window. As the car pulled away Wilson was shot seven times by police. The car crashed into a building down the street from where the incident began.

Official response sparks weeks of protests

The next day, Dolton officials, including Mayor Tiffany Henyard, praised the actions of the police and even said they prevented further crimes from occurring. They walked back their statements in press releases after the family of Wilson and local activists picketed the house of the mayor.

Local organizers and family members of Wilson have held multiple actions since her killing, calling for more action to be taken. Dolton police and other departments have been present and intimidated protestors at these past events, however, their response to the most recent protest was a clear escalation. 

Mayor Henyard was planning to hold a meeting on September 1 to meet with homeowners in the village. The meeting was a makeup for a previous meeting that was cancelled the week before. Village officials cancelled that meeting when they saw 15 protesters assembling for a silent protest on the sidewalk outside the village hall with signs calling for justice for Wilson. 

Police move to stop protest

Dolton officials were determined to keep any protests far away from their next meeting.

Dolton police, working alongside Illinois State Police, tried to keep people a block away from the village hall. They blocked off the main street in front of Dolton Village Hall with police tape, preventing cars or pedestrians from entering. In order to enter the taped-off areas and attend the public meeting, people had to show identification proving they lived in Dolton. City vehicles were parked on a sidewalk where previous protests were held.

The heavy police presence obviously confused many Dolton residents who were coming to attend the public meeting. Residents were unsure about where they were supposed to park and some yelled at police for closing off the street.

Police claimed that marches on the street were illegal, and that any march on the sidewalk near the village hall also was against the law. Police cars pulled onto sidewalks to stop protesters and multiple times officers took out pepper spray to intimidate the demonstrators.

Dolton police quickly began arresting any protesters they thought were too outspoken. 

The first protester grabbed was Carlos West. Dolton police were familiar and annoyed with him because he has been a constant presence at a picket of a local gas station, where he has been calling for its closure after an attendant beat a woman there. Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef, a Chicago activist, was arrested while livestreaming the event. Camiella Williams, an adult advisor to GoodKids MadCity, was arrested while walking away. She has been a leader in the struggle and police told her, “That’s enough,” when they took her in. Shabbir Manjee from the Party for Socialism and Liberation was grabbed after telling a personal story about police abuse. 

Dolton police performed the arrests, and they were backed up by Illinois State Police. Illinois State Police is the same agency investigating the actions of the officers who killed Wilson. An agency that stands shoulder to shoulder with a department to crush protest cannot be expected to honestly investigate that department.

No repercussions for killer cops

Chicago suburbs have essentially no local oversight of police, and investigations are often carried out by state police. These state police investigations always justify the actions of suburban police. According to the Better Government Association and WBEZ, from 2005 to 2020, there were at least 135 police shootings in the Chicago suburbs and not a single officer has been charged or even disciplined for any shooting.

Local organizers have identified Jared Carlton and Ryan Perez as the officers who assaulted and shot Wilson, and they are demanding they be fired and charged with murder.

Wilson is the third person Perez has been involved in killing while one duty. In 2016, Perez shot and killed a man at a gas station. In 2018, Perez confronted and tased another man in a hospital, killing him. His history is another example of how cops in Black towns and neighborhoods like Dolton are allowed, and often encouraged, to leave a trail of death and destruction in their wake.

That Dolton officials responded so aggressively to a protest of 20 people with signs and bullhorns shows how vulnerable officials believe their position to be. The Wilson case has gained more attention recently due to the struggle, and that obviously has annoyed village officials. Their intimidation tactics will not work. 

The attacks on protesters show that Dolton officials, backed up by Illinois State Police, are willing to violate supposedly guaranteed rights under the 1st Amendment to protect killer cops.

Justice for Alexis Wilson! Justice for all victims of police terror!

Feature photo: Dolton police and Illinois State Police stop protestors from walking down a sidewalk outside public meeting being held at Dolton Village Hall on September 1. Photo by Marcus Robinson, used with permission.

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