Officials Question Police Tactics Following Clash Between Cops and Protesters

Confrontations between police and protesters Saturday in downtown Chicago weren’t the most extreme fits of violence the city saw in recent days. Chicago police Superintendent David Brown says 51 people were shot over the weekend.

But the clash has spurred a fresh round of criticism from local officials about police leadership tactics, even as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday is set to take part in a national conversation on justice as part of the Democratic National Convention.

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“This group showed up at Millennium Park with the purpose of agitating police officers and the crowd. And I want to recognize our officers for maintaining their professionalism and composure despite being pelted and assaulted with projectiles on Saturday night,” Brown said at a press conference Monday morning.

The Chicago Police Department released annotated video of the incident showing crowds and highlighting an individual who appears to use a skateboard to hit an officer.

But protesters have put their own videos on social media, which show officers shoving and hitting the demonstrators.

India Jackson, a 19-year-old member of the organization GoodKids MadCity, said she was too busy trying to run out of the way of police to take her phone out and capture what happened to her.

“We were marching through the downtown area,” she said. “The police closed in on us and then the next thing I know I was being hit with batons, tear gas is being sprayed into the air, they’re punching us, they’ve shoving us, I got knocked over like three times.”

Jackson said she will continue to protest and advocate for defunding and dismantling the CPD.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, is one of eight local and state elected officials who condemned Lightfoot and Brown for using force against protesters.

“We question the logic of spending police dollars on social media surveillance, pepper spray, and riot gear to beat teenagers while the directives of the federal consent decree go unmet and the murder clearance rate remains abysmally low,” they said in a statement. “We are wholeheartedly with the protestors who have taken to the streets to demand a future free of violence. Many of these young people are themselves anti-violence activists who, like too many other Black and Latinx Chicagoans, have lost friends and family to gun violence. It is their right to protest, and it is our responsibility to listen.”

Asked on Monday for her reaction to that statement, Brown said in professional law enforcement “we don’t do politics and we’ll try to keep it that way.”

Sigcho-Lopez told WTTW News that legislators have an obligation and a responsibility to demand accountability from the police chief.

“So to the chief of police, my response is, it is his duty to provide information to public officials, to provide a full picture and a full detail of what transpired over the weekend,” he said.

The alderman also said it’s inappropriate for the CPD to have released an edited video of the demonstrations, saying that instead of showing snippets the CPD should release all raw footage of Saturday’s events.

While the CPD by Monday appeared to have taken down tweets, Sigcho-Lopez criticized the department for sharing personal information about individuals arrested at the protest, which has led to their getting harassed.

“There is a whole City beyond the Loop that is so desperate to be heard and to feel safe, that they’ve had to resort to protests. Those are the stories that also need to be told and those are the reasons that we in City government need to lead on solutions NOT over-policing,” Sigcho-Lopez wrote on Twitter. “Chicago Police instead is trying to censor those stories by pushing tailored video and tweeting mugshots w/ home addresses. Distributing that information does nothing additional to protect anyone, but is a politically motivated self-serving tactic that compromises safety.”

Activist and former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green has not endorsed fully defunding the police, though he said Chicago needs to significantly shift money from the police to neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city.

But he said Brown needs to step down as head of the police department, whose tactics over the weekend were harsher than those used under former Superintendent Eddie Johnson during larger, high-stakes protests.

“David Brown doesn’t understand the city of Chicago,” Green said. “This city has a lot of problems, and you got to understand the city, you’ve got to understand the landscape of our city, the landscape of protests if you want to be an effective superintendent. But he has such and ego and he is too up his rear to really understand that to be an effective superintendent you’ve got to bridge the divide, you’ve got to listen to people, you can’t just be super pro-police, you’ve got to understand the needs of the community.”

Brown came to Chicago from Dallas in April. He has promised CPD will have “community policing on steroids” and in a July restructuring moved hundreds of officers to community safety and crisis intervention teams.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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