Protesters called on city leaders to divest from the police department and reallocate funds for underserved communities and services like child care, mental health and health care at a rally outside City Hall Tuesday.
“None of us should be here right now, repeating ourselves that we are being hurt and destroyed by police,” said Christopher Brown, a member of the Black Youth Project 100. “But yet, here we are.”
Other advocacy groups — including Black Lives Matter Chicago, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization — were also on hand at the demonstration intentionally scheduled weeks before the city’s budget negotiations in the fall.
Organizers said a caravan of about 150 cars drove through the streets, honking their horns and displaying posters in support of the 60 protesters at City Hall.
Speakers at the event stood next to large green boxes, each representing $100 million of Chicago Police Department funding, in total representing the nearly $1.8 billion Chicago budgeted for police this year. A few much smaller boxes were on the ground beside the stack representing the proportion of the city budget going toward services such as domestic violence and mental health.
A Northwestern University law student said city leaders need to be reminded that protesters “are not going away” until communities are given the resources they need.
This fight wasn’t new for Destiny Harris, 19, a sophomore at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Harris, of Austin, said she worked on the “No Cop Academy” campaign against former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan for a $95 million police training academy. Harris said she’s felt “ignored” by Mayor Lori Lightfoot when it comes to the matter of defunding police.
“The city of Chicago constantly prioritizes police over Black and Brown youth, especially in terms of funding,” Harris said. “It’s the same fight. We’re calling for change now around what community safety means.”
Safety, Harris told rally attendees, is not about funding policing but rather putting money toward helping the homeless, education and housing. Other speakers called for universal, free child care and increased pay for child care workers, as well as environmental reform against decisions that disproportionally affect Black and Brown Chicagoans, including the dust cloud that blanketed Little Village after the demolition of a power generating station.
Leonardo Jimenez, 25, of Pilsen, said he attends rallies like Tuesday’s to demand more resources for the Chicago Public Schools. His partner, a CPS teacher, has told him stories of students having to wait an hour during a medical emergency to see the school nurse because not every school has its own nurse.
“Not many people know where their taxpayer dollars go,” Jimenez said of the city’s police budget. “I’m out here on the street for this very reason.”
Attendees rounded out the rally with a 1980s dance party, featuring songs like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston and “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross. The protest’s theme — “Black to the Future” — calls out the idea that “the last will be first, and the future will be Black,” said Black Lives Matter Chicago organizer Amika Tendaji.
“It’s important to continue the fight with joy,” something “colonization” and “police brutality” have taken away from many cultures, said Tendaji, 39, of Auburn Gresham.