Arab community demands: Justice for Murod, justice for Hadi
Oak Lawn, IL – Over 130 protesters shut down the Oak Lawn Police and Fire Commission meeting on July 5 in response to the killing of Murod Kurdi and the beating of Hadi Abuatelah. “We need to clean out the Oak Lawn Police from top to bottom. That's why we're demanding an independent investigation into the Oak Lawn Police Department,” declared Mohamed Sunkari, a leader of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN).
AAAN and the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) have been rallying outside and filling the public comments of the Oak Lawn Commission meetings every month for a year. “Last year in July of 2022 we showed up here after a 17-year-old Palestinian American boy, Hadi Abuateleh, was beaten almost to death by three police officers. Those officers' names are Patrick O'Donnell, Brandon Collins, and Mark Hollingsworth,” said Nadiah Alyafai, a AAAN youth organizer.
“We continue to demand that those three officers are held accountable for their crimes by being indicted, convicted and fired,” Alyafai continued.
For the second time in two weeks, protesters also called for justice for Murod Kurdi, who was killed by a driver who had been drinking on June 5. The driver, who was white, was let go with a ticket by Oak Lawn Police. “We are also demanding that the officer who let the woman leave the scene, and any officers who were involved in covering up this crime be fired from the police department,” Alyafai explained.
Speakers emphasized the need for unity between different communities to stop police crimes and racism. “Nobody can do this by themselves. It’s important that we stand together on these issues,” said Mark Kuehner from Southsiders for Peace.
“We need an independent investigation because the police will not investigate themselves. That's why we have to do it. Black people, Arabs, Latinos, immigrants and everyone impacted by police violence needs to come together to hold the police accountable,” said Kobi Guillory, co-chair of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR).
After the rally, protesters filled the meeting to its capacity of 130 people. Several protesters voiced their anger at the Oak Lawn Police in the public comments section of the meeting, including Murod Kurdi’s cousin, Tayseer Abuhamdeh. “Oak Lawn police officer Mark Hollingsworth looked my aunt, Murod’s mother, in the eye and said that he could see from the dash cam video that the woman was not drunk, and they were no longer pursuing this as an accident involving alcohol,” Abuhamdeh said. Hollingsworth was one of the three officers who assaulted Hadi Abuateleh.
“Oak Lawn Police need to answer for what they have done. They need to answer for the abuse of power, the lies and deception, and the continued racism and racial profiling against our community,” Abuhamdeh added.
After Abuhamdeh spoke, community members forced an end to the meeting by chanting “Justice for Murod” and “If we don't get it, shut it down!”
The Oak Lawn Commissioners filed out of the room. Police shoved the chanting protesters, a crowd which included children and elders, out of the building over the next 45 minutes.
Before exiting the building, protesters chanted “We'll be back!”
The next Oak Lawn Police and Fire Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday August 2. AAAN will rally outside the Commission building at 5 p.m.
“These police officers understand one thing only. They don’t care about begging, pleading, praying, or asking nicely. The only thing they understand is power. The power that we have is standing right here today. It’s the power in our community and the communities standing with us. It’s the number of people who are coming and standing for justice,” Sunkari said after the protest.