Militant Journalism

University of Chicago students stage sit-in to defund private police force

On June 12, CareNotCops, a student organization at the University of Chicago, staged a march in solidarity with the nationwide protests against police violence. Their demands to the university were “Defund, Disarm, Disclose and Disband.” Students marched from the quad to the police building in Hyde Park on Chicago’s South Side. However, Chief Kenton Rainey and other members of the University of Chicago Police Department refused to meet with the students or hear their demands, instead asking them to meet at a later date. Not satisfied with this resolution, as the police had used the same tactic and evaded meetings in the past, students from the march began to stage a sit-in until their demands for a meeting were met. 

In a clear escalation, the police refused to allow students to use the bathroom facilities and blocked entry of food deliveries. Every 30 to 45 minutes throughout the night an announcement was made to the students, keeping them from sleeping or having any peace. Students had to use diapers to relieve themselves, and relied on the little supplies they had to eat. The police reportedly even turned away a food delivery on behalf of the dean on call. 

Other students occupied the space outside the police building in support of the students inside. They were joined by Hugo Beckett of Party for Socialism and Liberation of Chicago, who explained that the private UCPD lacks accountability to the community:

“It’s powerful to see people protesting on a local level. The UCPD is a private force. A force that faces no accountability to anyone but the investors. In this movement we must start where we are and build from there. The students demands are Defund, Disarm, Disclose, Disband. They see how this private force enacts violence on a massive part of Chicago with no accountability to the citizens. The University promised to not build past 51st, and have already broken their word. This private force is violently enforcing gentrification upon the historically lower income Black neighborhood of Hyde Park. Students and citizens alike have no way of accessing their spending reports. There is no disclosure of UCPD activity to anyone in the public. Students are demanding an end to this violence and an investment back into the communities that the University has ravaged since its inception. A student activist connected their protest to the racist roots of the university, which was founded using massive wealth accrued through slavery. The disbanding of UCPD is not just about ending policing in the South Side now, but acknowledging and healing the racist white supremacist past of the institution.”

The following morning, protesters left the police headquarters to join a rally outside and reiterate their demands for a meeting with Rainey and UCPD. UCPD stated they would allow for a private meeting on June 15, but the meeting did not take place and students continue to demand a public meeting in order for UCPD to face the community. 

An organizer with CaresNotCops, Roma Linares spoke with Liberation News:

“We believe that the police do not belong in our communities because they do not solve crime, they create it. The University of Chicago has an antagonistic relationship to the surrounding communities. It actively creates a barrier between these areas and University grounds through the use of the UCPD. The police do not create safety, rather they prevent conversations about what safety really means and what it can look like. Even the administration here at the university is unwilling to recognize the harm that UCPD is causing in these communities and to take steps towards healing.”— Rosa Linares, CaresNotCops.

The University of Chicago is an elite, majority white university located in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago. The neighborhood is surrounded by poor Black neighborhoods, and there is a long and bad history between the university, which has bought up much of Hyde Park to create a “buffer zone,” and the surrounding neighborhoods. UCPD patrols the neighboring areas, not just the actual campus, and works with landlords to push out working class and poor members of the community in order to “redevelop” the area. 

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