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Four consecutive protests confront buildup to DNC in Chicago

By staff

Protestors hold signs saying “Free Them All” while a woman speaks over a bullhorn.

Chicago, IL – “This is only a pinch of what we're going to do in August,” Merawi Gerima said to 150 people who rallied outside the 18th District police station on the Near Northside of Chicago, May 19.

Gerima is one of the co-chairs of the Campaign to Free Incarcerated Survivors of Torture (CFIST), a campaign of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR). The main target of CFIST is the governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, who has the power to grant clemency to every one of the hundreds of people who are still incarcerated despite their convictions being the proven result of torture by police.

“What’s going on in these prisons is horrendous. People are treated like animals. People like Rico Clark and Lester Owens are locked up by corrupt cops like Brian Forberg for crimes they didn't commit,” said Darien Harris, who spent over 12 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted, describing how the entire legal system, from police and prosecutors to judges and politicians, is guilty of mass torture and false imprisonment.

Protesters later heard a recorded message from Rico Clark, who is currently incarcerated. Clark explained the continuity between chattel slavery and today's prison system.

Protesters also admonished Pritzker and other politicians for their support of the Israeli genocide in Gaza.

“Pritzker has the power to grant clemency today. Pritzker has the power to stop funding Israel today. We are here to demand he uses that power for real justice,” Akiesha Lee, a member of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) said after police barricaded protesters several blocks from Pritzker's house.

“Palestinians understand all too well the dehumanization and brutality that Black and brown people in this country face, as our people in Palestine also face the same kind of dehumanization and violence from the U.S.-backed, white supremacist, illegal Zionist occupation,” Nick Sous, a leading member of the Chicago chapter of US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) explained. USPCN is also a leading organization in the Coalition to March on the DNC.

“Black people and other oppressed people stand in solidarity with Palestine because we have mutual pain and suffering caused by the same enemy, so we have to unite and fight against that,” CAARPR Field Organizer Frank Chapman said at the end of the rally program.

“To these Democrats and Republicans, I want to say your time is up! We're going to fight and we're going to get justice from Chicago to Palestine,” April Ward declared. Ward is the mother of Mickeail Ward, whose conviction was recently overturned after ten years of fighting a wrongful murder conviction sensationalized in part by the Obamas.

The Sunday, May 19 protest was also the first of four consecutive actions organized by the Coalition to March on the DNC, of which CAARPR is a leading member. On Monday, May 13, coalition members met at Pritzker’s downtown office to demand that he grant clemency to torture survivors and end Illinois support for Israel.

On Tuesday evening, the coalition gathered 200 people at the Garfield Park Conservatory on Chicago's West Side to protest a DNC reception. Protesters aimed chants at Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, JB Pritzker, Sean Casten, Dick Durbin and Jan Schakowsky among others for the two hour duration as event attendees filed in and out of the Conservatory.

On Wednesday morning, the coalition met at the United Center while press outlets were conducting a walkthrough of the site where the DNC will take place between August 19 and 22.

“Wherever Genocide Joe and Killer Kamala show up there will be protests,” Hatem Abudayyeh, national chair of USPCN said at a press conference outside the United Center.

Abudayyeh continued, “There will be no business as usual as long as our tax dollars are funding the genocide and occupation of Palestine. That's why tens of thousands of people will be here on August 19.”

#ChicagoIL #FreePalestine #MarchOnTheDNC #FreeRicoClark #USPCN #NAARPR #CAARPR #CFIST #SOUL #DNC #BDS #FreeThemAll