Black Lives Matter Chicago and other groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against the federal government, alleging the detailing of federal agents to the city is being done in an attempt to suppress free speech, while separately claiming in court that Chicago police are trampling on protesters’ rights.
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Chicago and other cities will see an influx of federal agents this week, in what he said is an effort to address rising violence. Additional Department of Homeland Security officers were already been deployed to Portland, Oregon, where reports of unidentified federal agents patrolling streets wearing camouflage uniforms have been denounced by local leaders and become a focus of national debate.
At a news conference Thursday in Federal Plaza announcing the lawsuit, activists pointed to ongoing unrest in Portland as evidence of what could come this weekend when federal agents are deployed to Chicago. But leaders say they will not be intimidated by these actions, calling on the community to continue to show up to protest.
“We want to be clear that what is happening nationally is an attempt to stifle righteous rage and anger at the continued killing of Black people by police,” said Aislinn Pulley, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago. “We have been fighting back consistently for two months and we will not stop.”
The Chicago Abolitionist Network, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, Good Kids/ Mad City, #Let Us Breathe Collective, and South Siders Organized for Unity and Liberation were also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Thursday.
The suit alleges Trump is sending agents to the city in an effort to “intimidate and falsely arrest civilians who are exercising their constitutional right to speak and to assemble.”
Also on Thursday, lawyers for a coalition of activist groups sent City Hall a letter threatening separate legal action under a consent decree, a court order that required broad changes to the way Chicago police treat people. The letter calls on the city to stop what the activists’ lawyers described as the Chicago Police Department’s “brutal, violent, and unconstitutional tactics that are clearly intended to silence protesters.”
The letter, also filed in federal court, cited a litany of alleged physical abuses during protests that have erupted sporadically since late May, just after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
The lawyers from groups including Black Lives Matter Chicago and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois accused officers of abuses including knocking out the teeth of 18-year-old activist Miracle Boyd during a protest around a statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot denounced the deployment of federal agents earlier in the week, but changed her tone after speaking with U.S. Attorney John Lausch, who told her additional law enforcement would work “collaboratively” with Chicago cops against violent crime.
Federal officials have argued a recent increase in shootings points to a need for more law enforcement, but at Thursday’s news conference, activists from the South and West sides decried this claim, arguing investments in the community, not more policing, will bring an end to the violence.
“What we need is funding, what we need is investment in Black and brown communities, we don’t need police, we don’t need Feds coming in,” said Alycia Kamil, of GoodKids MadCity. “As Black and brown people who are already targeted, already under surveillance, I fear for my life.”
Video shows a police officer punching Boyd during the protest. Boyd says her front teeth were knocked in by the blow, but Kamil adds if the hit went another way, the outcome could have been deadly.
“Cops do not keep us safe, they terrorize us, they target us, they criminalize us,” said Kamil.
At Thursday’s news conference, Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th, applauded the efforts of young organizers such as Kamil and demanded more of the mayor, calling Lightfoot a “national embarrassment.”
“Mayor Lightfoot has very clear choices, she can decide today, and she has the ability to decide to invest in our youth and the people of color, to make sure that we have programming, that we have investment and resources,” said Sigcho-Lopez.
With protests planned for this weekend, including a demonstration at the Homan Square police facility, Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression said everyone needs to be out in the streets.
“There’s more of us than them,” Chapman said. “We’ve got to put people in the streets. We’ve got to keep this rebellion going.”
(Chicago Tribune’s Dan Hinkel contributed to this report.)
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