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U of Chicago students, community members rally for 5th day, call on provost to defund university’s police department

At least three dozen University of Chicago students and community members gathered Wednesday outside of Provost Ka Yee Lee’s Hyde Park home, continuing their push to get rid of the University of Chicago Police Department.

For the fifth day in a row, students and community members gather outside the home of University of Chicago Provost Ka Yee Lee to push for the elimination of the university’s police force Sept. 2, 2020 | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

At least three dozen University of Chicago students and community members gathered Wednesday for the fifth day protesting outside of Provost Ka Yee Lee’s Hyde Park home, continuing their push to abolish the University of Chicago Police Department.

“We are students, talk to us” and “We demand justice” were some of the many messages written in chalk on the sidewalk and street outside Lee’s home, where protesters have stood their ground through rain and sunshine since Saturday.

Organizer Alicia Hurtado, a rising third-year student, said the university’s police department “intimidates, brutalizes and ultimately makes Black people both on and off campus feel unsafe.”

That’s why, she said, the university must defund its police department, which is one of the largest private police forces in the country, according to South Side Weekly.

“[Lee is] refusing to acknowledge that by touting UCPD as a force of safety, she’s admitting that to her safety means that we can jeopardize the safety of others — it’s safety for a few rather than safety for all,” Hurtado, who’s studying sociology and comparative race and ethnic studies.

Hurtado, a member of student groups CareNotCops and UChicago United, said the protest will continue until administrators agree to have a public meeting with them to discuss the protesters’ proposal to abolish the university’s police department.

Organizers are asking the university to reallocate that funding to help students of color and ethnic studies. They would also like the university to build “safe student-led” cultural centers for students of colors.

“We’re willing to stay until our demands are met, we’re serious,” Hurtado said. “We’re serious about this. We’re willing to jeopardize ourselves in order for our university, for our community to be on the right side of history.”

India Jackson, a member of GoodKids MadCity, said this is a personal movement for her because she lives in Hyde Park.

“I can never walk around my neighborhood without being hounded by UCPD,” Jackson said. “I can count on all my fingers and toes how many times I’ve went grocery shopping trailed by UCPD cars. I just want to get groceries, what the f*** are you hounding me for?”

In a statement, the university said it had repeatedly offered for Lee to meet with the protest organizers, dating back to their June 11 occupation of UCPD headquarters, but they’ve refused to convene unless it’s in a public forum.

“They have rejected a constructive dialogue about their concerns and the UCPD,” Provost Lee said in a statement.

In a statement, the university said it is meeting with a range of people from across campus and in local communities “encompassing a wide range of views on public safety issues.” They plan to share the results of the discussions during a public town hall.

Hurtado said it’s frustrating the provost is refusing to hold a public meeting with protesters.

“It’s telling that she knows she has something to hide,” she said. “She knows that right now — in this political moment — everybody is beginning to open their eyes and understand police aren’t creating safety in their communities.”