A Medios Libre/Free Media Project – Chicago Illinois
It is not enough to claim we support the Black Lives Matter movement; we must also actively defend Black life.
Brown people are coming out in droves against Police, gangs, and white supremacists in defense of Black life. Brown people including but not limited to Native, Asian, immigrants, and ‘Latinx’ are participating in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement as well as confronting anti blackness in their own communities.
First a look at Chicago’s South and West sides. Amid rising racial tensions in Black and Brown Neighborhoods, Community members from the communities of Little Village and Pilsen took to the streets together to denounce Anti-Black violence and harassment in their communities. An alter for, “Brown People for Black Power” was restored in Pilsen, on June 2nd, 2020 at 18th and Blue Island also known as Plaza Tenochtitlan, after Chi Resists organizers said the Black Lives Matters alter had been destroyed over the previous weekend.
This came after Interracial gang violence was reported across the South and West sides of Chicago the weekend of May 30 to June 1st and continues. A black woman was harassed by gang members outside of El Coyotes restaurant on 18th Street when she “drove all the way from the north side”, as she said just to get some good tacos. Unfortunately, even though some people recorded the incident, they did not do anything to help. Black people were being harassed and attacked, having things hurled at them in their cars across ‘Latino’ gang territory. Black neighbors were calling out for help and reporting attacks and being fearful for their life on Facebook. Late at night a Pilsen resident saw a car full of black youth being interrogated by CPD on 18th Street after their car was hit by gunfire. Gang bangers continued to place fear in the hearts of neighbors. One youth resident of Pilsen said he heard an automatic rifle go off around 9 pm June 1st, Monday. A local shopkeeper reported that same night he “saw a truck full of people pull up with guns”. Community members from the two hoods plus Lawndale, Humboldt Park, Cicero, South Shore, and more neighborhoods all across the South and West sides were posting on Facebook frantically all night about gun shots. Claiming to be, “protecting the hood”, the gang members unfortunately had some support in the neighborhoods where the fear of looting and protests had overtaken to the point that some were supporting the Police who were working with gangs. One flyer from the Little Village Chamber of Commerce was explicit about local gangs, cops, community, and shop keepers coming together against looters to protect the neighborhood.
However, many saw past this. One community member wrote, “This is Not About “Protecting the Hood” This is a gross Machista power display, if the Bangers so concerned about community, where were they to stand up against Gentrification? Or against families being evicted? Or against Ice or for Immigrant Rights? Now running around with guns, patting police on the back, graffitiing gang symbols So No One else can Spray ‘Black Lives Matter’ making community fearful to march on the street openly against Police Violence! Gangs, Cops, and some Big business interests joined hands…It just goes to show the Police will join Gangs now not just downlow, but openly to Oppress whole communities using fear tactics for divide and conquer… Let it be known the Gangs are not ‘Protecting the Hood’ they are just patrolling Their Turf like always… biggest Bullies on the Block with guns”
Police have been aiding and abetting in this violence. At a particularly volatile situation, the 10th precinct Cops were overheard on the Police Scanner saying, “They’re shooting at each other”, in reference to a ‘black’ and ‘Latino’ intergang shootout from their cars. The response from another so called ‘peace officer’, “Let em do it”. And if the gangs and cops were not enough there have also been white supremacist groups and individuals attacking black people in our neighborhoods and protests. Reports have been made of ‘Proud Boys’ in Bridgeport and at many actions.
The Black and Brown Unity march was organized by folks in the neighborhood, notably Chi Resists and other collectives and individuals most of them, Latinx, or ‘Latino’, that is to say peoples from Mexico, Caribbean, Central and/or South America with varying mixtures of African, Indigenous and Spanish roots. The BnB Unity March was followed by another march in Little Village on June 3rd at 10am which included Danzantes offering prayers for the defense of Black Life and many brave community members willing to confront gang members to ensure the safety of their black neighbors. Chi Resists organizers expressed, “we’re here because black people have been attacked in Little Village. Someone was killed. A black mother and her kids were attacked. Her car was burned, and she was shot at. So, this is a response to the anti-black violence that’s been happening in Latino communities. There is no need to be scared. We deep and we will protect each other!”
During the speeches, a young black community member spoke, “I am a member of Chicago’s Good Kids Mad city, I live on the East side of Chicago and I’m here today to stand firm in Black and Latinx solidarity. I’m asking that that my Latin King brothers and my Little Village brothers and my Vice lord brothers from the Lawndale come to a peace and understanding like they’ve done in the past when racial tensions were high. We can find peace and mutual respect again. This is a new age. An age when black and brown are one because of our similarities. Where our work to be proactive towards our differences. This is a time for communicating our problems so we can work towards a solution. Both black and brown communities in the south and west side of Chicago are affected by environmental racism, racial discrimination, systematic discrimination, and centuries of exclusion. So much so that it may be hard for some to assimilate the trauma which we have endured which makes it hard for us to determine how it actually has slowed both Black and Latino social and economic mobility. We are both subject to the denial of our basic rights on US soil the land which belongs to your indigenous ancestors and which my ancestors were forced to be in America by the colonizers. We need to redirect that energy to a cause for the Black and Brown community. We are stronger together than we are divided… because we are family!”
Later that day on June 3rd, we saw another Black and Brown Unity march in Pilsen. This one even bigger. The march chants included many of the same as the protests nationwide, “No Justice No Peace! No racist Police!”, “Black Lives Matter”, saying the names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Along with, “Fuck 12” and “Las Vidas Negras Importan!” A community Mexica danzante wrote, “Yesterday during the march, a beautiful black sister came up to me and thanked me for having the danzantes offer sacred songs and dances. She said she felt the ancestors and it touched her soul and heart, this was medicine that she needed, and she hopes more spiritual groups would offer this medicine during times like this in public. This is the medicine our communities need. This is why we do this. Her words touched my heart and spirit. Tlazokamati to all the danzantes for offering your energia to the community and for the organizers for giving us space to offer this medicine to the community.”
These efforts were just one of many across Chicago to not just support but defend Black lives. Similar protests against gangs targeting black neighbors have happened and are happening in Little Village and Lawndale Highschool (June 5), Marquette Park (June 5), Humboldt Park (June 6), the East Side neighborhood , Cicero, Brighton Park, Gage Park plus many more places throughout the city.
Amongst all of this, the Brown Squad for Black Lives Rapid Response Team was also created to respond to any needs of black neighbors especially if/when needing protection or help confronting racist people. This is a coordinated effort providing resources, support, and response for Black community members in Chicago this includes rides, housing, food runs, and medics, plus de-escalation rapid response.
All these efforts are just some of what is happening in and around Chicago and it is all very inspiring. The same community Mexica danzante expressed, “To all my Mexican/Latinx people living in Pilsen, Little Village, Cicero, Back of the Yards, thank you, gracias for immediately responding to the antiblackness in our communities. This is a movement not a moment. We have to continue to do this work. In the last week I have seen black & mexican peace circles, grassroots marches for solidarity in our communities, black & Latinx youth led initiatives (powerful), brown people for black people response team, solidarity murals, art, songs and dance, healing, communities working together to restore harm and show solidarity with our black sisters and brother, it has been very inspiring, lets continue to work together, brown people for black lives. This is the Chicago that I believe in, love my city.”
The Indigenous community has also been present full force, especially in Minnesota, where AIM, American Indian Movement was founded, and members took to the streets against Police violence. Here in Chicago, the Chi-Nations Youth Council posted a statement on June 1st, “As an organization that stands for the lives and futures of Native youth, we must recognize that many members in our community are also Black. The paths between Natives and Black people are intertwined throughout history and around the country. Our community has a Black legacy. We must stand for the lives and futures of our Black brothers, sisters, and relatives. Every day, Black people have to walk this world, looking over their shoulder. At a young age, Black children are sat down by their parents and told that this country is built to bring them down, to destroy Black lives. Black and Brown people have a long history of being criminalized in this country. And the only thing they have apparently done wrong is being Black in America. On May 25, Black families around the country had to once again, sit down with their children and explain what it means to be Black in America. On May 26, those Black families said, “no more!” Today, we stand with our relatives and say, “no more!” We can no longer take the tears, the talks, and the lives taken away. These protests, riots, and violence are not an act of revenge or retaliation. They are a response. A response to hundreds of years of violence inflicted upon them. Hundreds of years of voicelessness and invisibility. Remember that our jobs as allies is to listen and respect the needs of Black people. If that means to stand beside them on front lines, then so be it. If that means to stand behind them and support them there, then so be it. If that means make noise, then so be it. We are with you. Together Native and Black people have built this country unwillingly, together we must tear these colonial structures down.”
All brown people have been showing up for Black lives, immigrants included. Many people have heard the story of Gandhi Mahal restaurant that burned up in Minnesota during the first few days of the uprising. The owner Ruhel Islam, an immigrant from Bangladesh is quoted as saying “Life is more valuable than anything else. We can rebuild a building. But we cannot give this man back to his family.” He was making ‘daal’ and more foods just the night before to give out to protesters. Also, some people may have read about Rahul Dubey, an Indian American who opened his home to more than 70 protesters in Washington DC who were being teargassed and kettled into neighborhood blocks for easy arrest after the 7pm curfew. The protesters were sheltered there all night with Dubey refusing to allow the police to enter. He said he was doing what everyone in America should be doing right now. On the ground here in Chicago, many groups and collectives of Asian folks have been supporting the BLM movement by not just attending protests but also offering to pay for rides for people stuck after curfew, like the Chicago Desi Youth Rising organization. South Asian activists have also been creating art hosting forums, talks and materials on confronting Anti-blackness.
South Asian local Activist said, “As Asians we have been painted as the ‘model minority’ by capitalism, which is actually related to the fact that many Asians came on professional visas in the 70s and 80s. So today, there are many whitewashed Desis, i.e. people from the subcontinent, who benefit from this privilege. They don’t understand a lot about racism in the US because they may have been mostly sheltered, many growing up middle class and/or in the suburbs or around white people. That’s not to say they don’t experience anti-brown and anti-immigrant racism, but there are different levels of this in our community. Many Indian immigrants especially in the recent decades, are working blue collar jobs at gas stations, restaurants, construction sites, farms alongside other immigrants.”
She continued, “India has a long history of confronting the ‘white man’ on our land. Indian freedom movements and Civil Rights Movements were highly inspired by each other. For example, Martin Luther King Jr was influenced by Gandhi’s nonviolent movement against the British. But the uprising in India against British rule was not passive at all. Many people used direct action and took up arms to fight the British until they ‘agreed’ to leave. A lot of history depends on whose version you read. The first war for independence of India in 1857 is termed the ‘Mutiny’ in western history. Beyond that, as People of Color we gotta see that every right we have today is a result of the Civil Rights movement. Thank you, Black brothers and sisters! So, we must confront anti-blackness here in the US but also in India and our south Asian communities, where like many Asian cultures, white is considered better. This is not just a result of colonization, but of centuries of the caste system, centuries of interethnic violence, and centuries of oppression against various communities including the Dalits (deemed ‘untouchables’ by the Caste system) who are actually indigenous to the region, more so than Brahmins and some groups of Muslims with lighter skin that arrived to the subcontinent from Central Asia. Anyway, as a subcontinent, I’m happy to see every skin color in India from the pasty white Kashmiri to the dark brown, curly haired Keralite. There is still a lot to unpack and understand about devaluing the ‘kala’, aka ‘black’ in our cultures. But as Kali Mata is still the most popular goddess, I’m sure she will show us the way to overthrow the oppressing systems we live in!”
Back on the ground in Chicago, the multidimensional tensions continue. It must be noted at the time of writing, that the Proud Boys are still a threat in the Cop loving neighborhood of Bridgeport. Organizing efforts are underway by Bridgeport and neighboring residents to confront the white supremacists. But it will take people stepping up, just as interracial gang violence, though it is being confronted, is also still a threat.
The Police are still attacking our Black sisters and brothers and any people protesting the Police State. As one Brown Chicago resident put it, “To all people of all races! We must continue to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, continue to attend protests and events organized by Black organizations like Black Lives Matters Chicago, BYP100 plus neighborhood groups and individuals. We must keep going to support efforts and if we cannot, we must keep witnessing Hyde Park, Bronzeville, South Shore, Englewood, downtown, and everywhere Black people are calling for justice. We need to keep speaking out against police violence until we abolish the Police, which we will replace with transformative justice systems. Keep doing Jail Support. Keep donating to the Chicago Community Bond Fund. Keep asking for justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Tony McDade, Iyona Dior and many many more. – But not only that, we must also actively stand up and defend Black lives with our bodies and voices. And we must continue to confront anti-blackness in our families, communities and neighborhoods, until it disappears from this beautiful Earth”.
These are the 10 Demands of BLMCHI Black Lives Matter Chicago:
1. CLOSE HOMAN SQUARE: We demand the immediate closing of Homan Square (and all other unknown “black sites” where over 7,000 people were “disappeared.”
2. CPAC NOW: We demand the immediate implementation of an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) with mandated inclusion of survivors and families of victims of police torture and violence – voted in by each neighborhood. We reject appointees and bourgeois election proposals, which expand the reach of the state to prevent the power of the people.
3. NO COPS IN SCHOOL: Cancel CPD contract with CPS. Fund restorative practices in all schools. Additional social workers and student support personnel in our schools. Make all schools Sustainable Community Schools.
4. ACCOUNTABILITY FOR POLICE MURDER & TORTURE: We demand immediate firing & prosecution of all police officers & government officials involved in torture and the cover ups of the murders of Pierre Loury & Ronald Johnson. We demand revoking Dante Servin’s pension for the murder of Rekia Boyd & revoking of pensions of all CPD officers who committed torture.
5. JUSTICE FOR ALL KILLED BY POLICE: We demand the name of officers involved in killing anyone in the City of Chicago for the duration of the Chicago Police force. We demand the reopening of all closed cases. We need to know the full breadth of brutality.
6. FIRE MURDEROUS AND ABUSIVE COPS: We demand the immediate firing of CPD officers: Kevin Fry, George Hernandez and Robert Rialmo for the murders of Cedric Chatman, Ronald Johnson, Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier – and we demand criminal charges of murder for each. We demand immediate firing of Officers Murphy and Lopez for brutally beating and tasing Pastor Catherine Brown.
7. END YOUTH INCARCERATION: We demand the immediate closing of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, the largest juvenile prison in the country.
8. DEFUND THE POLICE: We demand immediate disinvestment in CPD and a reallocation of the operating funds currently allocated toward policing, which represent 40% of the City’s operating budget and result in $4 million a day spent on policing.
9. INVEST IN COMMUNITY RESOURCES: We demand policing funds be re-invested in our communities through the reopening of the 50 schools closed, reopening of the mental health centers that were closed, housing for the homeless or nearly homeless, funding for crisis centers, free drug treatment and recover centers, and a jobs program for all who are unemployed or underemployed.
10. RELEASE IMPRISONED JON BURGE TORTURE SURVIVORS: We demand the immediate release of all torture survivors still in prison. Former CPD Commander Jon Burge & his henchmen tortured over 100 Black & Latinos (the youngest known was 13). Some still remain in prison despite the City admitting that they were tortured. Free them now!