#DecolonizeZhigaagoong, #DefundCPD, #BlackLivesMatter
“After a powerful Black and Indigenous Solidarity Rally and March, the biggest gang in Chi Town shows who they serve, and what they’re here to protect. Lightfoot can say what she wants to #45’s people, but don’t lie and tell us you care about Black and Brown people in Chicago” -Black Lives Matter Chicago ( https://twitter.com/BLMChi )
On July 17th, 2020 at the Black and Indigenous Solidarity Rally in Chicago, more than 1000 people gathered. They were Black, Native and Brown folks, white allies, immigrants and more. The crowd consisted of youth, workers, artists, teachers, lawyers, femmes, mothers, families. Many community members from all over Chicago came together in solidarity with one another against Racism, Police Brutality, and Colonization. It was a beautiful collaboration between more than 15 grassroots organizations and autonomous groups, concerned individuals, groups of friends and families. Everyone met in downtown Chicago at the Buckingham Fountain followed by a march to a symbol of genocide, slavery and colonialism, the Christopher Columbus Statue.
An invitation to the event read, ” Chi-Nations Youth Council, Black Lives Matter Chicago, and BYP100 ( https://twitter.com/byp100 ) —among others— call for the abolishment of police and the redistribution of funds to the people of Chicago.
In 1830, during the Indian Removal act, the Chicago Police Department was founded—three years before Chicago was official. These overlaps are often seen as coincidental, but the history of police in the United States shows a clear mission to remove Native peoples from our land and enslave our Black relatives. All land East of Michigan Avenue is unceded Niswi-mishkodewinan territory. The city of Chicago has no rights to this land—through treaty or sale. It is occupied only by white supremacist entitlement and a collective delusion of ownership.
We are gathering and celebrating ourselves as Black and Indigenous peoples. We are tired of having to say “we are people.” We are tired of having to say “we matter.” We built this country as Black and Indigenous peoples. Our knowledge and labor has been exploited for too long.
Let’s dance, sing, party, and celebrate ourselves.
Bring drums, flags, music, and food. Wear a mask”
During the solidarity rally black brown and indigenous people took the stage and spoke to the crowd, songs were sung, and performers energized. Most present there was Love. People chimed in with the speakers, hollered in agreement, laughed with one another, cheered, danced, and prayed. The smell of sage whirled around the gathering. A vocal Dakota activist spoke (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3146155698774324 )” I’ve come from the Dakota homelands and I greet each one of you with a good heart. I’ve dedicated my entire life to indigenous rights, for the land to get back… to see the liberation of indigenous peoples on turtle island, for the dismantling of white supremacy. And I know that my fight is not whole unless I’m also advocating for the liberation of black people. If I don’t understand that my struggle is connected to the struggle of my relatives, then we are gonna fail. So that’s why we are here to connect our struggles. I wanna recognize the land we are on. The original territories of the three fires confederacy Oglala, Anishinaabe, Potawatomi, Miami, Meskwaki and more all gathered here to trade… We are collectively casting our voice out to each of the 4 directions and asking the ancestors to be with us here.” A member of the Chi Nations Youth Council ( https://twitter.com/chi_nations ) shared a song, accompanied by his drum, for “all those brothers and sisters protesting who have lost their lives. For all the rights we deserve. ”
The energy was high and uplifting at this beautiful solidarity rally. A BLM Chicago (https://www.blacklivesmatterchicago.com/) member spoke, “We’re here to remind this city that we are not separating. That we are not backing down. Not giving up since may 30th when they beat us up with batons. We will continue to be out here. Today we are demanding not only that they defund cpd. We are also demanding that they decolonize Zhigagagong (Chicago).” The crowd of more than 1000 people roared in applause. A person from Brave Space Alliance (https://twitter.com/bsalliancechi ) shared, “First and foremost, to all the black and brown people here today I want you to know that we have been involved in a lot of protests, a lot of demonstrations. But this right here is the best, most intentional, most beautiful display of black and brown joy that I have seen in a long time!” -They’re words were met by cheers..“if you’re here right now you are hyper aware of the times we are living in right now…. and this is not the time for your respectability politics.”
The solidarity march proceeded to the statue of the murderer Columbus and was very well organized. At their arrival, Police had already surrounded the statue and were guarding it, forming a barricade with their bikes. About a dozen cops in riot gear were on standby at the other side of the hill. Several police SUV’s had already lined up along the lawn west of the statue in Grant park. Streets had begun to be blocked off by cops. Before the people even reached the Columbus statue, the CPD had already demonstrated their power and authority to protect this symbol of racism and genocide.
A local community member shared, “1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue – that’s what I was taught in school when I was a kid. And what we have been taught is wrong. Columbus didn’t discover anything. He wasn’t looking for spices or India. He came to a land that he had heard about from African and Arab sailors. To look for a new place to throw the Portuguese flag up, as Europe was in the dark ages while the rest of the world flourished. He came and brutalized the Native people of what we call South, Central, and North America. A “discovery” to Europe that this land existed and that the earth was round. A discovery only to them. But people already lived here. And what followed is the history we all know. Not what they teach in school but what we hear from our Indigenous sisters and brothers. The genocide, theft of land, rape, murder. Columbus the carrier of plagues and pandemics, does not deserve a statue, or any status as an explorer or anything at all. He deserves to be condemned!”
The people marched towards the Columbus Statue, and upon seeing the cops surrounding it, started collectively chanting, “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?”, as they made their way forward. At which point fireworks were heard in and around Grant Park all the while the people kept chanting. The people would not be deterred. The mere act of protecting this symbol of hate and oppression by the CPD was an act of violence against the indigenous, black, and brown community.
Police vehicles immediately mobilized from all directions, riot cops were on the scene within seconds and numerous cops on foot ran to protect the statue. Cops alleged water cans were being flung at them and started using tear gas against the demonstrators. Fireworks were being lit while onlookers watched and filmed from the sidelines. An indigenous femme wearing a ribbon skirt holding feathers awaited her chance at a round dance while CPD cowered right beside her.
The area around the statue was cleared of the police and artists came out and redecorated the base around the statue with phrases such as “Defund CPD”, “For Fred Hampton”, “Fuck Columbus”, “ACAB”, “Killer”, “Enough is enough” “The Cops are losing”, and more. Someone climbed on the already draped statue of Columbus, wrapped a rope around it and the crowd began to pull. Well organized and determined the people chanted, “Pull, Pull, Pull!”. Anticipation was high. Everyone wanted that statue down. It is shameful that Chicago, a city with a huge population of black, brown, indigenous, and immigrant peoples, has yet to take any racist statues down.
Unfortunately, the statue did not come down, and was interrupted by the police brutally attacking the crowd. An eloquent speaker from Good Kids Mad City (https://twitter.com/GKMC18 ) spoke at a press conference, “This past Friday, peacefully protesting downtown at the racist Columbus statue, showing our rights as citizens to protest against the injustices that have been placed in society. While the action continued, police officers were brought in to circle a group of young unarmed innocent group of people. They brought out tear gas, pepper spray, and mace. They were beating people. There were multiple instances of police brutality. People with their heads busted open, people who couldn’t breathe throughout the rest of the night, people whose skin was burning from pepper spray and one of our own members, an 18 year old girl who had her teeth knocked out.”
Police viciously and indiscriminately attacked anyone within their reach. Beating and arresting, their batons wacked hands, faces, bodies, pushed and punched women, youth, non binary folks, NLG lawyers, elders just anyone they could reach with their batons. They tried stealing peoples bikes and if the owner didn’t let go they beat their hands with batons and hit and push them until they let the bike go. The whiffs of healing sage were replaced by mace and pepper spray as frantic police sprayed unarmed people. Cries for medics and folks running to help one another was heard. Even though there was a fire truck and ambulance there, none of the people were treated in the ambulance for the burns and blood that ensued. Instead, the ambulance comforted the cops hit by a water bottle. There are various videos online showing the seriously violent and sociopathic behavior of the Chicago Police Department that have been, for many years now, training in military tactics and upping their supply of brutal weapons to use against Chicagoans.
A local Native activist shared some photos of frightened police on FB and wrote, “These pictures were taken at the same time, that’s me calmly standing there with my feathers and ribbon skirt waiting to round dance, while the cops were crying and ‘running for their life’ she went on, “When folks weren’t scared of their bullshit they decided to target less defensive people away from the folks defending themselves- the children, medics, photographers, disabled, and the elderly. We said people are more important than property, their response was ‘people’?”.
A Southwest Sider of Zhigaagong expressed, “It was very important and a delight to see CPD’s usual smugness exchanged for shock as protestors launched projectiles and fireworks at them in the initial attempt to clear the statue’s immediate space. The pigs’ faces showed a cognitive dissonance as the protestors’ offense intensified. It seems it was very hard for them to believe violence was being directed to THEM and not just to property, which is an important development in the uprising here in Zhigaagong. Let it be known: this was a multiracial action, contrary to the white supremacist media narrative that warriors in the uprising are foreign white agitators. We all have legitimate reasons to want to eliminate by any means necessary unelected, unaccountable marauders and assaulters who have the Authority of the State power but not our consent whatsoever. CPD and all other occupying forces are not chosen by us directly, therefore, they have no legitimacy and constitute invading and occupying forces. Invaders and occupiers have no rights, period. They do not even have the right to defend themselves from injury or death from those who violently oppose their illegitimate and violent presence. Adelante! “
After the Black and Indigenous Solidarity Rally, a lot of people were hurt, scared and confused. Some, mostly corporate media, blamed the few protesters who lit fireworks or threw water for the escalation of a mostly ‘peaceful’ protest, promoting a dialogue of ‘good’ protester, ‘bad’ protester. One local Chicago compañerx wrote, “On Friday even before we arrived at Grant Park all the weapons were there, and so were the pumped up cops thirsty for blood. This is not a figure of speech. They surrounded us. We went to Grant Park that day in defense of Black and Indigenous lives. It is a peaceful act to tear down monuments to genocide and enslavement… The pigs repress, sabotage, beat, threaten and intimidate all those who stand against them no matter the tactics, no matter how calm, restrained or how chill we behave. Whenever we question the status quo and exercise forms of association they cannot control, whenever we make another world not just necessary, but actual, they undermine and repress us. On Friday people stood together and defended each other. Young Black organizers reminded us relentlessly to not panic, to not run away, to stick together, to form defensive lines, to take care of each other, to protect each other, to stay together. Do not panic, they are dividing the group, isolating this or that portion, separating and then attacking. People showed remarkable calm and restraint, and this was good not because it was “peaceful” to place your body and your bike between the pigs and other protesters but because it allowed us to protect instead of trample each other, which is clearly what the police wanted us to do. They ambushed and chased and threw people downhill hoping for a panicked stampede. They deliberately divided the group so they could more easily beat us up. And this is continuing even now, after the protest. They are hunting us down and tearing us apart. They are manufacturing the “provocation” that makes their position legitimate, and they are prying open divisions between protesters in order to do so. ”
However, some folks felt the organizers should have been more clear about the march and direct action that was to follow the rally. A Little Village resident expressed, “I’m feeling weird about that rally on Friday turning from a rally to a march & statue take over. I’m still not clear on how or why that happened. For safety reasons, I feel like people should be informed and be given the opportunity to consent to participate in putting their bodies at risk like that. There were children, differently abled bodies and undocumented folks in the crowd. People got hurt” She also had some suggestions we could all listen to, “I’d love to see that statue come down and I support the groups who want to do that. This is the part that concerns me, I don’t feel right about putting peoples lives at stake for an agenda that only some knew about and agreed to… I’ve been studying revolution, liberation and creating autonomous communities for some time. Transparency in mission is still key at every step of the way. We can build our own militia. Its not illegal to do so. But using people as pawns is a very, and i hate to put it this way, but white, patriarchal and colonial practice. So is only a few people making decisions for everyone. The revolution will be a slow, intentional & transparent one. I think we’ve all got some reading to do.”
The days following the Black and Indigenous Solidarity Rally saw more protests and many press conferences. On July 18, a march to the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot’s house was interrupted by Police blocking the road and continuing the brutality. (https://www.facebook.com/humboldtparkinchicago/videos/309669607079480/ ) A local Chicago compx wrote, “On Saturday evening at a Logan Square protest lead by Good Kids Mad City, people practiced incredible restraint in the face of massive police presence surrounding them, outnumbering them, provoking them, kettling them, threatening them for hours; the psychological assault was so intense a young woman near me passed out. But no one left, no one bailed, everyone stayed together. And still that evening a police car drove into protesters. It was intentional. They are now “investigating”, which means they will manufacture some kind of provocation. They brutalize us to justify their gear, their arsenal, their power and the necessity of their institution. Whether we stand in silence in a line as we did Saturday, or throw firecrackers and water bottles as some did Friday, the police brutalize us. These are merely different tactics, and we cannot afford to take any tactics off the table. They are all necessary. We are all necessary. “
At a press conference on July 20th by GoodKids MadCity, (https://www.facebook.com/Fox32Chicago/videos/729166491216253/ ) an organization of Black and Brown young people fighting to end violence and calling for more resources to under-served communities, a youth activist spoke, “This is a continuous thing that has been happening within these last few months of actions happening downtown of unarmed youth coming peacefully protesting, and we have more tactics and scare tactics and tanks coming in…[Lightfoot] She brings out thousands of cop cars, tanks with weapons with guns and tasers for unarmed youth. She invests 1.8 billion dollars into the Chicago Police Department. She has a 33 million dollar contract with CPD to be in CPS schools to brutalize young students. To brutalize young black and brown students CPD gets five million dollars a day.” She also went on to explain about food deserts and lack of mental health facilities. On how folks have to drive 30 minutes to get groceries, but the north side and downtown has ample resources. And black and brown south and west sides struggle for food and basic necessities. “Lori Lightfoot would rather protect statues than the citizens who live in the city. Come on. Objects instead of living bodies in the city of Chicago. As somebody who is black. Somebody who has the same skin as us and she’s not protecting those who look like us. If she didn’t have that title she would be in the same predicament as us. She’s not funding us. No she’s not taking care of us. She’s not making sure that young black women are safe that young black women are being protected. She sent those officers out .. [who] were brutalizing young black women, black girls, people not over the age of 18, beaten pepper sprayed. This is what has been happening in this city every single day for the past month for the past year past decade… But we are here to let Lori and the CPD know that we aint taking this no more. We’re not taking this. No more funding that’s going to people that brutalize us, murder us, sexually assault us. We’re not gonna take it anymore…Funding needs to go to black and brown communities not to send cops into schools. ”
Miracle Boyd, an 18 year old recent graduate of Chicago Public Schools and also a part of GoodKids BadCity, was the young woman who got her teeth knocked out by a Chicago Police Officer. She also spoke at the press conference on Monday and expressed, ” I fight every day in my community to end gun violence… I was attacked by CPD who valued a supremacist statue over my life, safety, and well being. Christopher Columbus did not discover America. He was a rapist, murderer, thief and colonizer who layed the groundwork for indigenous genocide and the trans atlantic slave trade of Africans. Yet the police are defending the statue of a man who died more than 500 years ago. The police are not serving and protecting us. There is now way I should have left a protest bruised and battered for exercising my freedom of speech…since then, my life has been threatened. I’ve received several hate messages” She began to tear up and fellow organizers surrounded her hugging and giving support. She continued sternly, “I will not be defamed by the media… I am not a criminal. I am not a menace. I am not a rebel. I am a dedicated freedom fighter who will always stand up for black and brown people across America!”
The bronze statue on a cement slab, covered with a white drape resembling the kkk, was rapidly cleaned of the art, surrounded by new fences, patrolled by security vehicles, and now cameras are also facing it. A group of protesters gathered close by on the night of July 20 to show their continuing disgust for it. Police are still protecting this non-living object, instead of protecting people. Clearly this is their only goal, to protect Racism and serve Colonialism. The Chicago Police Department was built for oppression and has shown time and again that it can only do that. We need to be freed from these oppressors. CPD needs to be abolished. Resources need to be re-allocated to communities of color; to schools, hospitals, social services, to people directly, and not the Police State. Land must be given back to Native peoples so they can teach us all how to care for and flourish with the Earth. The Black, Indigenous, and Brown people of Chicago want freedom, and we are not going to back down!
#Defund CPD! #Decolonize Zhigaagong!
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