Dozens gathered on Oct. 3 in Chicago’s Union Park to demand a radical shift in budget prioritization amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers included Lift The Ban Coalition, BYP100, Chicago Tenant Movement and more.
The main demand was for Local, State and Federal budgets to defund various war efforts, policing and other wasteful spending and instead invest in safety nets such as guaranteed housing, rent freezes, medicine and treatment and infrastructure. There was also a popular call to lift Chicago’s ban on rent control, which would allow families in danger of eviction to have their rent frozen.
Ken Barios of the Irving Park Mutual Aid Group told Liberation News: “What we want to do with Unemployment Day is raise the topics of ‘What do we really need?’ We have been talking for years about taxing the rich. The uprising brought defund police as one of the ways we can get resources for what we really need. We can use this as an opportunity to raise those two general demands, so we can talk more about other stuff, like rent and mortgage freezes.”
John Romanus, an organizer with Chicago Tenants Movement, spoke to the crowd: “Thirty percent of Americans this year have missed at least one housing payment since April 1. Everyday landlords across Chicago are illegally evicting working class, Black, brown and queer tenants out of their homes and into a pandemic.”
During the course of the event, volunteers were walking around and stationed at tables to help people fill out unemployment forms and other paperwork. A common theme from the banners hung around the fences and from flyers passed around was the popular call to defund police. Other tables offered more information on mutual aid efforts throughout different parts of the city.
Sam from Northwest Side Solidarity Network spoke to Liberation News: “I’m here to support the list to publish demands, redirecting our taxpayer money from the carceral system and towards more equitable systems that actually benefit Chicagoans.”
The Chicago police budget is still $1.8 billion dollars, and a recent city survey says that 18,000 of the 19,000 surveys support defunding the police.