Alexis Wilson was killed by Dolton, Illinois, police on July 27. More than two months later, the only people facing charges related to this case in the Chicago suburbs are activists arrested for speaking out at a protest against racist police terror.
Wilson was killed by Dolton police late at night when she was in the drive-through of a fast food restaurant. There was a disagreement between her and the workers, and someone in the restaurant called the police and reported she had a gun. After police arrived, they assaulted Wilson without warning when she was hesitant to leave the car, and then shot her.
The three activists facing charges had their first hearing in the Dolton Municipal Building on Oct. 7. Around 20 people came out to show their support. The next day, 50 people came out in Dolton for a candlelight vigil to commemorate what should have been the 20th birthday of Wilson.
Carlos West, Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef, and Party for Socialism and Liberation member Shabbir Manjee face a misdemeanor charge of “disrupting a public meeting.” The bogus charges stem from a Sept. 1 peaceful protest outside the Dolton Village Hall. That day, police targeted the most outspoken and recognizable protesters in the small crowd that was on a public sidewalk.
At the hearing, a few supporters were initially denied entry by police, who cut off access when they realized a majority of people in the room were supporters of the arrested activists. When the judge noticed that people were standing outside in the rain, he asked the police officers why people were waiting outside. An officer responded that they did not have any citations so they could stay outside. The judge overruled the police decision and the supporters were allowed inside.
The hearing resulted in a continuance as lawyers for the activists requested police body camera footage of the event and time to present other video evidence. The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4. The arrested activists and their supporters gathered for a press conference and rally following the hearing. Here, each of the activists charged promised to continue fighting for justice for Alexis Wilson.
‘We will not be intimidated or silenced’
Shabbir Manjee explained why he came out to protest Dolton officials. “I was absolutely horrified, the very next day after Alexis Wilson’s death, that Mayor Tiffany Henyard came out to back killer cops,” he said. “We will not be intimidated by any cop; we will not be silenced by any mayor. No politician will stand in our way because we fight for a just cause.”
Cameilla Williams, an adult advisor to Good Kids Mad City, was also arrested on Sept. 4, but village officials did not formally charge her. She said, “When our Black girls and Black women are murdered, period, but specifically by the police, it goes unnoticed and untalked about, and no justice is received.” She also called out the arrests as scare tactics by Dolton officials.
The charging of anti-police terror activists with misdemeanors is a tactic that allows police to arrest protesters and intimidate the movement while likely avoiding the media and public scrutiny that more serious charges can bring. Activists charged with misdemeanors still must take time off from work or school and face court hearings and serious fines. In Saratoga Springs, New York, police have targeted and arrested 12 Black Lives Matters activists who are facing similar charges in an attempt to suppress the anti-racist movement there.
The next day, Oct. 8, a vigil was held by family and friends of Wilson to commemorate what should have been her 20th birthday. Around 50 people gathered with candles and balloons outside Baba’s in Dolton, the fast food restaurant where Wilson was gunned down by Dolton police.
The crowd listened as family members and close friends wished Wilson happy birthday and spoke about how much she is missed. They also promised to continue fighting for justice.
Wilson’s older sister said, “I think about her everyday. I go to school and can’t even think because I’m thinking about her, because [the police] took her from us.” She related Wilson’s murder to the wider struggle against racist police terror. “I was just protesting last year so something like this would never happen to my family.”
A great aunt of Wilson said she is determined to keep the struggle alive promising, “that every foul creature involved in taking my niece’s life will be in prison.”
Alonzo Wilson, the father of Alexis, then led the crowd in singing happy birthday for Alexis. The vigil ended with a release of balloons and the lighting of sparklers for the children in the crowd.
After the hearing and during the vigil, people reiterated their intention to continue fighting to hold the cops responsible for killing Wilson accountable. Activists particularly have called for officers Jared Carlton and Ryan Perez to be charged with the murder of Wilson. Perez assaulted Wilson and Carlton shot her after.
The next hearing for the arrested activists is Nov. 4. Allies and supporters will be there in solidarity to support the right to protest and to continue the fight for justice for Wilson.
Dolton and Chicago politics
While Dolton can seem like a small suburb on the edge of Chicago, elected officials in the village have deep connections to politics across Cook County. Mayor Henyard has hired Dorothy Brown to be the administrator of the village. Brown was the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk for 20 years before choosing not to run in 2020. The Chicago Reader notes that her term was notable for dysfunction in the court system, which made it harder for incarcerated people to appeal their cases. She is the target of federal corruption investigations.
The one Dolton trustee who still publicly supports Mayor Henyard is Andrew Holmes, who was elected in 2021. Holmes has a long history of working alongside Chicago Police. Before being elected, Holmes was honored by the notorious former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual, who declared Feb. 26 as “Andrew Holmes Day” in 2014. In 2016, selected by local FBI officials, Holmes received a Director’s Community Leadership Award from the FBI. Holmes frequently works with the Chicago Police Department and joins them for press conferences.
The struggle for Wilson and all victims of racist police terror continues. Justice for Alexis Wilson!
Feature photo: On Oct. 7, marchers rallied in support of activists arrested while protesting the police killing of Alexis Wilson in Dolton, Illinois. Liberation photo