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District Council candidates prepare to create turning point in the fight against police tyranny

By staff

Chicago communities are fighting for community control of the police.

Chicago, IL – 200 people filled up the main hall of the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters on January 22 for a political forum in preparation for the local police District Council elections. There were over 50 District Council candidates in attendance, and other participants included alderpersons, union leaders and community organizers. Over 40 people of various ages, genders, and nationalities spoke at the forum, and they were all united behind the need to use the February 28 elections to create a base of power from which the working and oppressed people of Chicago can hold the police accountable.

“These candidates are running because it's time to hold these police accountable for the crimes they commit against our communities,” declared Frank Chapman, field organizer of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR). Many of the District Council candidates present shared their experiences of being impacted by police crimes.

“I'm running because it's personal,” said Kiisha Smith, 10th District Council candidate. Smith described her experiences being harassed and assaulted by Chicago police officers who also targeted her children. “My family asks me ‘are you ready for this fight?’ and I say I've been fighting my whole life so why not do it the right way?”

“We have seen at the hands of the police extreme violence against the residents of Chicago, who have suffered unforgivable losses which, more often than not, our young people fall victim to,” said William “The Kid” Guerrero, 12th District candidate. At 21 years old, Guerrero is running to represent the city’s youth. He began his remarks by highlighting other young candidates, including Anthony Michael Tamez, Ashley Vargas, Saul Arellano and Jacob Arena.

“It's messed up that 15, 16, 17-year olds think it's normal for the police to smack them around. For the first time in forever we're gonna hold them accountable,” said Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois and Indiana (SEIU HCII) member and 2nd District candidate Coston Plummer. In 1991, detectives working under Jon Burge tortured Plummer’s brother, 15-year-old Johnny Plummer, into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit. The legal system has kept Johnny Plummer incarcerated since.

Other District Council candidates shared stories about how they, their families, and their communities have been harmed by police crimes, including Cherli Montgomery, Simeon Henderson, Jim Blissett III, Dion McGill, Anthony David Bryant, Michelle Page, Ponchita Moore, David Boykin, Julia Kline, Julio Miramontes, Meredith Hammer, Brenda Waters, Angelica Green, Josh D’Antonio, Monserrat Ayala, Krystal Peters, Elena Thompson, Cynthia McFadden, Letina Brady Pettis, and many more.

All the candidates spoke about their previous organizing work and their drive to hold the police accountable.

Many speakers also mentioned the amount of money Chicago spends on police while neglecting healthcare and other vital services. The CPD is set to receive nearly $2 billion in the 2023 budget.

“Police misconduct settlements alone are costing the city more and more every year” said 2nd District Council candidate Alexander Perez, who cited the $67 million Chicago spent on police legal costs in 2021.

Participants in the forum connected the plague of police violence and the CPD’s bloated budget to the lack of democratic control over the police. “Whatever powers that be that make the rules that affect our communities without giving us a seat at the table, we need to change that also. The community needs a seat at the table,” Coston Plummer said.

“We need to change the way our city functions and this election in February will be a referendum on that,” said Jeff Howard, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 73.

“We're on the cusp of a historic moment. Not only because of the District Councils but also because we're gonna have an elected school board, so the two largest city agencies will be democratically governed,” said CTU Vice President Jackson Potter. CTU, SEIU Local 73 and SEIU HCII are among a number of unions that were crucial to the passage of the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) ordinance in 2021. Both labor leaders who spoke at the forum pledged the support of their unions for pro-accountability candidates.

Aldermanic candidates also spoke at the forum. “This is what democracy looks like!” chanted Desmon Yancy, 5th Ward aldermanic candidate and member of the ECPS coalition.

20th Ward Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor drew from her own organizing experience to comment on the struggle ahead: “Nothing has ever come easy for us. We've had to fight for everything and this won't be no different.”

In opposition to the candidates who are running for accountability are candidates supported by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The FOP has a long history of negotiating city contracts that defend the police from being held accountable, with terms such as the deletion of misconduct records after two years, which resulted in Jason Van Dyke, the officer who killed Laquan McDonald, having none of his prior crimes reflected on his record.

“On February 28 it won't be the FOP candidates who win. It's going to be true representatives of the people,” said 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa. Rosa and other speakers stressed the need for volunteers to mobilize voters in Black, brown and working-class communities in order to ensure that candidates fighting for accountability beat those supported by the FOP.

“What we heard tonight was the genuine voice of the people who want change,” said Frank Chapman as he concluded the forum by calling on everyone to get involved in canvassing for District Council candidates. Chapman pointed out that people from Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Louisiana, Florida, Washington DC and other places around the country are planning to volunteer in the District Council elections in Chicago because they recognize the importance of the elections in the struggle for community control of the police.

#ChicagoIL #PoliceBrutality #ChicagoAllianceAgainstRacistAndPoliticalRepression #EmpoweringCommunitiesForPublicSafetyECPS