Donning orange caps ( with stickers that read “Youth Allies” and/or “LAC” ) and braving freezing temperatures, several dozen individuals who represented the Lakeview Action Coalition ( LAC ) and its allies held a rally and march Dec. 5 to protest what they say is police abuse of homeless, LGBT and at-risk youth.
For the past few years, LACa non-profit, multi-issue community organization that is made up of 39 institutional membershas been working on the issue of police harassment and abuse of homeless youth in the community for several years, asking local commanders to take action to curtail the abuse.
LAC has released a report, “A Broken System: Lakeview Action Coalition’s Report on Police Harassment & Abuse of Homeless Youth in Lakeview,” that spotlights incidents of police misconduct and the organization’s own work in combating this problem. Among other things, the document states that between Nov. 2004 and May 2006, there were 112 incident reportsand in 95 cases, there was harassment ( which included racial slurs, homophobic comments and sexual harassment ) involved.
The rally was held at Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 716 W. Addison. The march, which took place after said rally, encompassed practically all of Boystown as protesters walked along the sidewalks on Halsted, Belmont and Broadway streets, all the while yelling slogans such as “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Police brutality’s got to go.” At Halsted and Addison, a copy of the report was dropped off at the 23rd Police precinct.
Pastor Gregory Dell, spiritual leader of Broadway United Methodist Church, was just one of several community leaders who appeared. Among others present were Gay Liberation Network President Andy Thayer and 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney.
Dell, speaking at the rally, said that “it’s time that [ misconduct ] stops now. We tried talking, writing letters and callingand there’s been no change in behavior. Tonight, we take to the streets with our bodies in solidarity for homeless youth [ to encourage ] police return to serving and protecting all of its citizens.” He added that “there are people to want [ the police ] to change their behavior.”
Robert Schultz of Amnesty International USA made reference to a recent document of his own organization when he told the crowd that “the police abuse outlined in the report and the lack of accountability fit the patterns documented by Amnesty International in its 2005 report, ‘Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against the LGBT People of the United States.” In addition, he declared that “even for serious abuses, officers are seldom held accountable, creating a culture of impunity. ... Homeless youth, particularly youth of color and LGBT youth, are at particular risk of being targeted for police abuse.” Schultz called for police to work with people and groups to establish accountability measures and to respect “the human rights of all the community members they police, including the most marginalized groups.”
Thayer said that his organization “has long said that there has been a problem with police misconduct and brutality in Chicago, not only with the LGBT community, but with the whole Burge torture situation.” He added that “it’s good to see the Lakeview Action Coalition take up the struggle when they’ve had the door slammed in their faces by the CPD [ Chicago Police Department ] .”
LAC is calling upon the Chicago Police Department to reduce incidents of harassment and abuse of homeless youth in Lakeview by 50 percent by August of next year. In addition, the organization wants the 19th and 23rd Police District commanders to report on their strategies for meeting this goal.
( Windy City Times contacted 23rd Police District Commander Gary Yamashiroya for comment. However, he had not responded by the time this issue went to press. )
More info is available at www.lakeviewaction.org or at 773-549-1947.