A former local community activist and onetime aldermanic candidate for the 7th Ward pleaded guilty this week to a disorderly conduct charge that stemmed from his arrest while protesting a deadly shooting by Chicago police.
And now that Jedidiah Brown has mostly put the misdemeanor case behind him, he plans to walk some 700 miles from Atlanta to Chicago to raise awareness about gun violence and a lack of resources in many neighborhoods here.
His experience with the criminal justice system and his “Walking Home” fundraiser aren’t connected, at least, not exactly, Brown said Wednesday from Atlanta, where he now lives.
Brown said he decided to plead out because fighting the case took a financial and mental toll.
“I don’t feel justice was done, but I’m a Black man in America, so I’m used to that,” he said. “I finally decided to stop fighting the courts. ... I feel like I pleaded guilty to get my freedom.”
Brown was accused of punching a Chicago police officer and kicking another while he was being arrested during a protest of the police shooting of 37-year-old barber Harith Augustus.
Cook County Judge Clarence Burch sentenced Brown to court supervision and 30 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty Monday, records show.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability concluded its investigation into the Augustus shooting in March, but said it will not release its recommendations until the Chicago Police Department finishes its pending internal investigation.
Representatives for the CPD and COPA did not responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
A special prosecutor from the Illinois attorney general’s office was appointed to Brown’s case after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself amid allegations that she had political connections to Brown.
Foxx and Brown were photographed together and the top prosecutor posed for a selfie with Brown during an event at Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters in 2019, upsetting a group of police officers who had arrested Brown during the July 2018 protest in South Shore.
Brown moved to Atlanta in April 2019 to get away from Chicago and find himself again. Since then, he’s been working on his mental health and pursing several business ventures.
“That life I was fighting for in Chicago, I found [it] in Atlanta,” said Brown, who will turn 35 later this month.
Brown says he hopes to raise $100,000 with his walk — which will kick off from Martin Luther King Jr.’s boyhood home Saturday — for anti-violence groups in Chicago.
Although he says he no longer considers himself an activist, Brown said he’s “coming out of retirement” for a “last hurrah” to raise awareness about Chicago’s gun violence, which he said has led to many residents leaving the city and state.
Since moving, Brown said he paid less attention to what was going on in Chicago — part of his process for turning over a new leaf. But when he learned about several violent weekends in the city this year, he felt compelled to act again.
“My heart just started breaking again for the city,” he said. “My family and friends still live in Chicago, so I’m never not gonna care.”
During the walk, Brown will have to check in monthly with an officer of the court to show that he’s been staying out of trouble, but he has yet to get details on how that will be done.
He also hasn’t decided which organizations he’ll give money to and where he will stay during stops in the journey, which he thinks will take two to three months.
“I’m nervous as hell,” Brown admitted of traversing a route that will take him through major cities and heavily wooded regions.
Luckily, he said, he’s found encouragement from his supporters, as well as those who he had a more “contentious” relationship with.
“A lot of people have reached out. Even the mayor,” Brown said, saying that Mayor Lori Lightfoot called to wish him well and welcome him back to the city.
A Lightfoot spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.