Northwest Side Activists Challenge Community Policing Rally, Fundraiser Scheduled for Juneteenth.
By Alex V. Hernandez, Block Club Chicago
A Northwest Side community group fighting racism wants police to reschedule a fundraiser so it won’t coincide with the date the state will celebrate the abolition of slavery.
A “We Support Police” rally and fundraiser is scheduled for June 19 at the Jefferson Park Police District, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave. On the same day, people across the city, state and country will be celebrating Juneteenth — which will mark 154 years since the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Most states (including Illinois) observe Juneteenth (June 19) as an official or ceremonial holiday.
Members of the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism & Hate want the police district to reschedule the event out of respect for those celebrating Juneteenth, a special day for black Chicagoans who have experienced police violence and other discrimination.
“The City of Chicago continues to struggle with racial equity and justice,” the group wrote in a letter to aldermen, police and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office. “A federal judge and the Justice Department has determined the Chicago Police Department requires reform specifically due to a concerning record of civil rights violations. One simple step towards healing, in the City of Chicago, would be for Northwest Side communities and the 16th police district to specifically recognize and respect Juneteeth Day, on June 19, 2019, as a national and state day of observation to celebrate civil rights.”
The coalition initially sent the letter out June 12 to Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), Ald. James Gardiner (45th), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th), Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.
“That rally has happened before but this is the first time that it’s happening on June 19. It started out as a police lives matter rally. So there are definitely racial undertones,” said Pastor Shawna Bowman, a member of the coalition.
Last year, Ald. Sposato, a former Chicago firefighter and Napolitano, a former police officer, hosted the event at the Jefferson Park station, which also caused controversy.
“Given everything that’s come to light over the years it’s clear that racial bias is at work in our city’s systems and in CPD’s policing,” Bowman said. “So our request is that if the city is committed to addressing this then the 16th District should move the event to show some kind of sensitivity if they didn’t know about Juneteenth.”