Probe Opened Into Allegations of Excessive Force by Chicago Police Officers During Pro-Palestinian Protests

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Investigators began probing allegations on Monday that Chicago police officers used excessive force against pro-Palestinian protestors outside the Art Institute of Chicago, officials said.

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The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA, received a complaint and is currently conducting a preliminary investigation that will determine whether it, or the Bureau of Internal Affairs, has jurisdiction over the matter.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department said CPD would fully cooperate with the probe, which comes as lawyers for the city prepare to defend a new policy that would allow mass arrests of protestors, approximately 100 days before the Democratic National Convention comes to Chicago.

The complaint made to COPA included a short video posted to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, by a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times that showed officers attempting to set up a barricade on the north side of the museum’s grounds and protestors, many of them students at the School of the Art Institute, resisting.

The video shows two officers reaching across the metal barricade to strike at least three protesters with open hands as other officers struggle to set up the barricade.

The first use of force comes against a protestor using their weight and both hands to prevent the barricade from being installed, according to the video. The officer does not appear to give the protestor a verbal warning before reaching across the barricade and hitting them in the head, pushing them away from the barricade.

Seconds later, that officer strikes another protestor who is struggling with a second officer. That second officer appears to grapple for more than 10 seconds with the second protestor, who has their hands in front of their face, according to the video.

Eventually, that second officer strikes a third protestor and then the protestor who was struck by the first officer before lunging across the barricade to push the protestor he had been grappling with away from the barricade, according to the video.

Throughout the confrontation, a third officer appears to try to defuse the situation and eventually pushes the second officer away from the protestors, apparently ending the conflict, according to the video.

Nearly 70 people were arrested Saturday on suspicion of trespassing after Chicago police officers cleared the encampment set up by protestors.

The Chicago Police Department’s use of force policy, last revised in 2023 requires officers to use de-escalation techniques and only respond with increasing levels of force when “objectively reasonable, necessary and proportional based on the totality of circumstances that the officer was confronted with,” COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten said.

A coalition of reform groups have asked the federal judge overseeing efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department to prevent the policy from being implemented because it violates the First Amendment as well as the consent decree, the federal court order requiring the Chicago Police Department to change the way it trains, supervises and disciplines officers.

Mayor Brandon Johnson and Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling have repeatedly said that Chicago police officers are prepared to lawfully police the massive protests expected to erupt around the United Center and downtown under the white-hot media glare the convention is sure to trigger.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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