This story is republished on in partnership with The Real Chi, an experimental “learning newsroom” in North Lawndale for young adults. Video by Julia Mondschean, Maya Horton and Trevor Squire.

The heavy presence of Chicago police officers in City Hall early Wednesday morning was a precursor for what #NoCopAcademy activists would face before the City Council’s 38-8 vote to approve the construction of a controversial police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park.

Hundreds of young activists were denied entry to City Council chambers during the public meeting. The night before City Council convened, youth activists held a sit-in at City Hall.

While waiting outside of City Council chambers, the group of primarily Black and Brown youth-led demonstrators chanted, stomped and danced loud enough to be heard inside the council meeting. During the initial public comments session, which occurred before the vote, youth activists Destiny Bell and Destiny Harris spoke out against the academy.

“I’m here to let y’all know that [Mayor] Rahm [Emanuel], [alderwoman] Emma Mitts, you are all sellouts,” Bell said. “Y’all do nothing for the Black community.”

Ald. Mitts (37th), whose ward will house the academy, has been a staunch supporter of the initiative.

After watching Emanuel talk with staff and look at his phone during previous comments, Bell demanded Emanuel look at her while she spoke. “The fact that you can’t look me in my face while I’m talking shows how much of a coward you are,” she said.

Harris spoke up, too. “I say to you, Rahm, and all the aldermen he has in his back pocket, we’re watching the way you vote today,” Harris added. “To the Black Caucus, we’re watching your claims of being for Black and Brown people.”

Harris, who spoke at Bernie Sanders’ rally at Navy Pier on March 3, told City Council that 300 people came in support of the #NoCopAcademy movement but were refused entry into the chamber. She was silent for a moment to allow the chorus of chants from the hallway to be heard.

Inside City Hall, #NoCopAcademy organizers were denied entry into public Chicago City Council meeting during vote on police and fire training academy. Photo by Julia Mondschean | The Real Chi

In the hallway, activists’ chants grew louder after reports that one demonstrator was arrested and escorted out of City Hall by five officers.

When activists crossed a police control rope paired with a metal detector, police placed tables between themselves and the crowd to create a barrier. The tables pushed against the bodies of the youth at the front of the group. One demonstrator sat on the table, placing herself as close to the chamber as possible without crossing the makeshift border.

After the vote, Bell and another activist inside council chambers took an elevator down to the first floor where they joined a smaller group of people chanting in the lobby of City Hall.

Soon, the rest of the activists moved to the first floor of City Hall, where they chanted in a circle accompanied by drumming. Then, the group took their march to the streets.