City drops cease-and-desist order against youth organization

Chicago Freedom School said the city accused them of operating as a restaurant when they fed protesters on May 30.

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Joey Mogul

Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office

Sun-Times file

Officials with a South Loop youth activism group said the city has dropped a cease-and-desist order leveled against it after claiming its members had violated city code by serving food to protesters during a massive George Floyd demonstration in May.

Leaders at Chicago Freedom School claimed they were illegally raided by Chicago police in riot gear and other city officials on May 30.

About 11 p.m. that night, police and representatives with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection came to the group’s site at 719 S. State St. and searched the space, took photos and “upon seeing empty pizza boxes and bottled water” accused the group of operating as a restaurant, according to a statement issued Friday by the Chicago Freedom School and its lawyers.

The group’s lawyer, Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office, accused the city of targeting the group during a news conference last month announcing a federal lawsuit against the city.

“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,” Mogul had said.

The largely peaceful protests after Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer had drawn thousands downtown, but later descended into some clashes with police, rioting and looting.

Chicago Freedom School, which serves mostly young people of color, said it was providing a safe space for protesters and had handed out prepackaged granola bars and pizza that had been made elsewhere.

“We were there for young people who protested that day, some of whom were struck, disrespected and harmed by the police at the protests,” the group’s statement said. “We offered a safe space when the City was intentionally creating a dangerous one.”

In addition to food, the group said it also offered protesters bathrooms, phone charges and helped coordinate rides home.

Chicago Freedom School said the city threatened them with arrests and fines of up to $1,000 a day if it continued to serve food on the premises because it didn’t have the required license.

The city’s cease-and-desist order had said Chicago Freedom School violated a city code by preparing food.

But in a letter the group shared sent by BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno, Escareno wrote, “In light of the school’s statements made in recent court filings indicating that the school does not prepare food on site or sell it,” the cease-and-desist order would be dropped “effective immediately.”

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