A South Loop youth activism group that says it was illegally raided by Chicago police and other city officials during recent protests has filed a federal lawsuit claiming racism prompted the search May 30.
Leaders at the Chicago Freedom School say they were merely providing a safe space for protesters when police in riot gear arrived along with representatives from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection who issued a cease-and-desist order for violating a city code about serving and preparing food.
“They have not brought these illegal, trumped-up charges against any other youth services organizations for doing the precise same thing they all do, which is provide commercially prepared food to its young participants,” lawyer Joey Mogul told reporters during a news conference downtown Thursday.
The group, which serves mostly young people of color, says the city order threatens arrests and fines of up to $1,000 a day if the school continues to serve food on the premises because it doesn’t have the required license. But the group said they were not in violation of the city code because they were handing out prepackaged granola bars and pizza made elsewhere. The group wants a judge’s injunction to prevent the city order from taking effect.
The school’s leaders said they opened their doors May 30 to offer refuge to tired protesters who, with streets closing all around them, had nowhere else to go.
“We took them in, we fed them, we listened to them, we learned from them and we loved them,” said Tony Alavardo-Rivera, the school’s executive director. “And for that, the city sent police officers in full riot gear and threatened to shut down Chicago Freedom School and arrest my team for taking care of youth.”
A representative from the city couldn’t immediately be reached for comment about the lawsuit.