Protestors posing in downtown Chicago during a protest on May 30, 2020 | Photo by Darius Griffin/The TRiiBE

In the wake of protests across the city for the death of George Floyd, local activists and organizers are loud and clear: they want change for Black lives and now is the time to fight.

Black Lives Matter Chicago (BLM Chi) and other groups, including Assata’s Daughters, My Block My Hood My City and BYP 100, are calling for what they describe as radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of Black lives across the nation. 

“It’s important that we reaffirm what we’re actually fighting for, especially in this moment,” said Amber Farrell, a 25-year-old member of BLM Chi. “A lot of elected officials are sort of just trying to appease us and being complicit with these lazy steps that they’re putting forward that we know don’t work.”

This isn’t the first time BLM Chi and other organized activist groups in the city have made demands to the local government. According to Farrell, “Black Lives Matter Chicago has experienced a lot of wins.” She noted that Chicago was the first city to receive reparations for victims of police torture in 2015 due to the BLM Chi movement.  

Another win was in 2014, with the release of the dashcam footage from former white Chicago Police Department (CPD) Officer Jason Van Dyke showing the shooting of 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald. Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months in prison for shooting McDonald 16 times after the dashcam was released. 

This led to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez losing her reelection in 2016 after she waited 13 months to prosecute Van Dyke in the McDonald case. This single case brought on national attention that eventually led to the resignation of then-Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and caused former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to not seek reelection in 2018.

“We believe that we will win,” said Farrell in regards to the current 10 demands. These demands include issues such as police accountability, youth incarceration, defunding the police department and justice for victims of police brutality.

“There are now cities around the country that are talking about taking money from the police for the first time. We are making a difference.”

The recent call to pull CPD officers out of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is just one action of local organizers and activists to make their point and make clear their demands for Black folks.  GoodKids MadCity (GKMC) — a Black youth violence prevention group — organized a rally and march on June 4 at the CPS District Office to make some noise around this issue. 

Black activists believe that Chicago’s schools are no place for policing.  However, one day after the rally, on June 5 during a press conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that city officials will not be taking CPD out of CPS. Farrell said that isn’t going to halt the movement. 

“It’s not going to work,” said Farrell.  “We are aware of the school to prison pipeline. The things that keep our kids safe are counselors, social workers and books.” 

Damon Williams, 27, is the co-director of #LetUsBreatheCollective — an alliance of artists and activists organizing and strategizing to create a world without prisons and police — and the son of Chicago comedian Damon Williams. He said it is insulting to have police in schools when most of them in Black neighborhoods in Chicago don’t have the basic needs for these students.

“Once the pandemic happened, CPS was saying ‘we’re going to make sure all the schools have soap’,” said Williams.  “How do you have two on duty officers prepared all day who don’t do shit but stand there waiting to arrest kids, but not have soap?”

Williams said that from a budgetary fiscal standpoint, CPS doesn’t have libraries, adequate food or counselors. He also said the availability and access to a school nurse is “atrocious.”

With their backs against the wall and continuous blood and sweat, local activists aren’t planning to abandon the fight until Black lives are valued and protected in Chicago—even if it doesn’t happen in their lifetime.

“I always said I never expected to see a world without policing and prisons in my lifetime and that this work is for future generations,” said Williams. “I also never would have expected that all 50 states would be in an uprising at once.”

And as the uprisings continue, community activists and organizers find that now is a pivotal time to get their demands met.  The 10 demands were originally released five years ago, according to Farrell. The demands have resurfaced as a way to educate the public and expand the movement.

Below are The “10 Demands of BLM CHI” and what community organizers and activists have to say about them:

1. Close Homan Square:

Community organizers are demanding that the city closes Homan Square   a Chicago police warehouse based at the old Sears headquarters — located in North Lawndale, where CPD has taken detainees and tortured them, without allowing them access to family or lawyers.  More than 7,000 people have reportedly disappeared from Homan Square. Some detainees have even claimed to be punched, tased or even handcuffed to furniture

2. CPAC Now:

Organized groups are calling for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that gives the power of policing back to the people and replaces the city’s current Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).

We want to make sure that people who are in charge of holding police accountable are those who have been victims of police torture and violence and has been voted in by the neighborhood as folks we can trust,” Farrell said.

3. Repeal The Blue Lives Ordinance:

Community activists demand the repealing of the Blue Lives Ordinance that says protesting the police is a violent hate crime.

Protestors in downtown Chicago on May 30 | Photo by Darius Griffin/The TRiiBE
4. Accountability for Police Murder and Torture:

Bella Bahhs, Chicago raptivist (rapper and activist), said she’s been organizing with groups such as BLM Chi, Assata’s Daughters, BYP 100 and Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) for five years. Bahhs said that the allowance of police murder and torture in the city is unacceptable.

I do not believe that prisons serve anyone,” said Bahhs. “ I advocate for the release of people who are incarcerated under violent crimes, even murder.”

5. Justice for All Killed by the Police:

The murder of George Floyd has been said to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Black folks all across the nation. In Chicago, however, activist organizations such as BLM Chi have been on the frontlines, rallying for justice and accountability, each time a Black or brown person was killed by police.

We can never have true healing if our government is allowed to kill people without accountability,” said Williams. “If those with the most power are able to do the most harm and are able to get away with it, it is going to continue. That’s abuse.”

6. Fire Murderous and Abusive Cops: The movement is on a mission to rid the city of reckless, abusive cops:

On May 31, Williams was arrested during a protest on the South Side. During his interview with The TRiiBE, he described the moment that led to blood and torture with CPD officers.  After direct uproar and standoffs between police officers and Williams and his partners, at one point, he said the police officers began to act more aggressively.

One used his leg and baton and tripped me to the ground,” he said. 

Williams said he was supposed to be detained until 6:00 a.m. that next morning. However, due to pressure from the community, lawyers and others, Williams was released hours earlier at 1:30 a.m.

7. End Youth Incarceration:

The movement calls for the closing of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center — one of the largest juvenile prisons in the country — immediately.

I stand with the demand to end youth incarceration 100%,” said Bahhs. “The way that Black children are criminalized in this nation, it doesn’t happen to any other children in that same way. This country feels that Black, urban youth are not deserving of the same love and care and nurturing that other children are. We are not deserving of the same investment into our children and into their future as other children,” said Bahhs.

A car caravan heading to protests in downtown Chicago on May 30 | Photo by Darius Griffin/The TRiiBE
8. Defund the police:

The movement wants to immediately strip CPD of its funds and allocate those funds to the community to better serve Black folks. And in the shadows of George Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis City Council voted on June 5 to “dismantle the police,” giving Chicago organizers hope. An idea that once seemed taboo is beginning to look a lot more real for Black folks across the nation who have grown tired of police control, police brutality and police power.

One of the proposed solutions by Mayor Lightfoot was to implement counseling for police officers who are in practice,” said Bahhs. “That directly goes against our demand to defund the police and reallocate those funds to the community.”

9. Investment in Community Resources:

The movement doesn’t only want to defund the police — it wants the CPD cash flow to go into the communities that are currently without quality schools, medical facilities and grocery stores.

There are life affirming measures that we can implement that do actually keep people safe,” said BLM Chi’s Farrell. “If we re-appropriate those funds that go to police, the community can actually measure the practices that affirm our humanity and create stable lives for people. If we can use that money to build people up, it would be an appropriate re-appropriation of that funding.”

10. Release imprisoned Jon Burge Torture Survivors:

I was awakend to the real legacy of police and prisons through the fight against Jon Burge and to uplift his tortured survivors from his unit,” said Williams.

In 2015, the Chicago City Council passed the Police Torture Reparations Ordinance for survivors of Jon Burge, the former CPD Commander who tortured over 100 Black and Latino people between 1972 and 1991 to force confessions. After six months of an organizing campaign rooted in over two decades of work through supporters and survivors, the ordinance passed — the first one of its nature of any state harm against Black folks. Now, the movement calls for an immediate release of of all torture survivors still in prison.

According to several activists including Williams and Bahhs, today’s movement is one that involves ongoing action and critical strategy in a time where our city is witnessing mourning families and no accountability from elected officials and law enforcement. 

“The demands that we are making will drastically shift power in this city,” said Bahhs. “These are demands that they do hear but the establishment vehemently oppose these demands because these demands vehemently oppose the establishment.”