CHICAGO, IL – Following the tradition of the Chicago Light Brigade’s annual artistic vigil for those who have fallen to violence in Chicago each year, community members, led by the direct action collective Lifted Voices, are shutting down the intersection of Congress and Clark with an artistic memorial blockade. This protest is being carried out as a memorial to Chicago’s fallen and to demand the resignations of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and States Attorney Anita Alvarez.
This blockade is composed of 16 individuals, representing the 16 shots that Laquan McDonald’s killer, Officer Jason Van Dyke, fired into the young man’s body as he attempted to walk away from police last year. The blockade’s imagery includes a shining light for each person who fell to violence in Chicago this year.
The tragic loss of life in Chicago in 2015, coupled with recent scandals around police violence, make clear that under Rahm Emanuel’s leadership, the Chicago police have not only failed to keep Chicagoans safe, but have also contributed to the culture of violence in our city. Emanuel has dodged responsibility for Chicago’s infamous crime rate at every turn, even going so far as to blame activists for the ineffectiveness of Chicago’s police force.
“Black and Indigenous people are the most likely groups to fall to police violence nationwide, and we are taking a stand, here and now, in a city that has been devastated by state violence,” says Lifted Voices organizer Kelly Hayes. “No one is free so long as they live in fear of armed agents of the state who are allowed to harm them with impunity. Chicago deserves better, and it’s time to demand better. This is how we pay our debt to the dead and fight for a better future,” says Hayes.
Given recent revelations about police misconduct, it is crucial that Emanuel be held accountable for his recent insistence that community copwatch efforts have actually compounded the city’s crime rate by causing police to “go fetal.” Following the release of dashcam video of Laquan McDonald’s murder, Rahm Emanuel has backed off such claims, fired multiple officials, and offered public apologies, but these empty gestures are too little, too late for the 475 Chicagoans who have fallen to violence during the last year.
Irrefutable statistics have established that the brutal, racist tactics of Chicago’s police do nothing to keep our communities safe, and our mayor and states attorney have repeatedly demonstrated their complicity with a culture of police impunity.
This action, led by Indigenous and Black women, represents love of their communities, “respect for those we’ve lost, and our demand that Rahm Emanuel and Anita Alvarez accept responsibility for their failures as public servants and resign immediately.”