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Top cop says he’ll meet monthly with Black Lives Matter Youth

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said he has agreed to meet once a month with leaders from youth minority groups in Chicago to address race relations in the city. Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) said he plans to hold prayer vigils and town hall meetings in Mount Greenwood to discuss race. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Friday said he has agreed to meet with Black Lives Matter Youth activists every month to discuss relations between police and minority communities.

Johnson talked of his plans following a meeting between him, leaders of minority youth groups, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) and the principal of Marist High School.

After the closed-door meeting, which ran more than two hours, leaders from Black Lives Matter Youth and the Black Student Union of Walter Payton College Prep told reporters that their demands had been met.

The teens will now be able to educate Chicago Police officers first-hand on the goals and values of Black Lives Matter Youth, they said.

“They were concerned that police officers don’t understand what Black Lives Matter Youth stands for,” Johnson said. “I told them that if they created a curriculum and they wanted to come in and speak to members of CPD, I would facilitate.”

The meeting, hosted at CPS’ downtown headquarters, was held after a protest that was planned to be held at Marist High School in Mount Greenwood Friday was canceled.

The protest was going to be held “against the racist response of locals in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood and students at Marist High School” in the wake up the fatal police shooting of Joshua Beal last weekend.

Marist officials released a statement Monday after they were made aware of “racially charged” posts on social media that involved students at the school.

The students involved faced disciplinary action, the school said.

Beal, 25, of Indianapolis, was shot to death after he pointed a gun at an off-duty officer and others during a traffic dispute last weekend in Mount Greenwood, authorities said.

The youth leaders, all girls 16 or 17 years old, said the cancelation was spurred by death threats aimed at potential protesters.

Made aware of the threats, Chicago Public Schools called families of the youth leaders and told their parents that “we are not safe and we are risking our lives by going to [Mount Greenwood],” said Eva Lewis.

O’Shea, whose ward includes Mount Greenwood, said he now plans to hold prayer vigils and town hall meetings with neighborhood residents to discuss race relations and how to improve them in the area.

“Racism is learned,” O’Shea said. “Kids aren’t born with it. They learn it.”

Officials at Marist, a private Catholic school in Mount Greenwood, said they decided to cancel classes on Friday due to safety concerns for students and to limit disruptions on school grounds.

Maxine Aguilar, another of the youth leaders, said Marist principal Larry Tucker also agreed to make policy changes at the school, but declined to give specifics until Tucker could inform the Marist community.

Aguilar did say, though, that the theme of any changes would be to improve education and safety for minority students at the school.

Johnson commended the manner in which the girls worked to address their concerns.

“Everyone in Chicago has a right to have their voices heard, but you want to ensure that the venue that you choose, you have the most impact,” the top cop said. “I think those young ladies understand that they have an opportunity now to have a real impact on race relations in this city.”