WOODLAWN — At least three people, including a 20th Ward aldermanic candidate, were arrested while protesting the city’s decision to move migrants into a former Woodlawn school building Friday.
Candidate Andre Smith, Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change Executive Director Tyrone Muhammad and another person wearing Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change gear were arrested for trespassing Friday afternoon at the shelter, 6420 S. University Ave.
About 100 men and women moved into the former Wadsworth building Feb. 2. They were the first of hundreds of people, mostly asylum seekers and other migrants, who will move into the shelter.
The protest followed a press conference across the street from the former Wadsworth building, in which some Woodlawn residents — backed by a few dozen representatives of Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change — reiterated their frustrations with the city’s opening of the shelter with little community input.
The city intends to use Wadsworth as a shelter for up to two years. Up to 250 single men and women will move in, starting with this week’s arrivals. Officials have not yet determined the maximum number of people to be sheltered there.
Neighbors have criticized the city for leaving them in the dark and sharing details only once it was a “done deal.” They’ve also taken issue with the city’s move to renovate the former school into a shelter after letting the property sit vacant for years.
Smith called for Congress to hold a hearing on the Wadsworth shelter plans and blasted the city’s status as a sanctuary city at this week’s protest.
He attempted — along with Luis Cardona, a Woodlawn resident of three years who also spoke Friday — to block buses from dropping off migrants at Wadsworth last week.
Muhammad spoke calmly with police officers prior to walking onto the Wadsworth campus with Smith and at least one other person. Police and the three protesters alike could be seen smiling as they spoke to each other at points prior to the arrests, which took place without incident.
The three protesters were taken to the 3rd Police District headquarters, 7051 S. Cottage Grove Ave., police confirmed.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration planned to house migrants at the former school for months prior to the shelter’s opening, despite her office’s previous denials and a confusing rollout process for which the city’s family and support services commissioner has apologized.
Lightfoot and city officials have sowed disunity among Black and Latino Chicagoans by not being transparent with their plans for Wadsworth, speakers at Friday’s protest said.
“They don’t give a s–t about my color, your color, my neighborhood, your neighborhood,” said Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council. “All they care about is money and votes.”
Though some protesters and other Woodlawn residents have repeatedly said the pushback is not based on the migrants’ places of origin, the shelter’s opening has nevertheless exposed racial and ethnic tensions in the community.
Smith and other protestors referred to the migrants as “illegals” and said they should not have been allowed to cross the border, even though non-citizens have the legal right to seek asylum.
The migrants being housed at Wadsworth were checked against national security and criminal databases upon arriving at the border, city officials have said.
“There’s no crime against seeking a better life,” said Enriquez, who came with his parents to the U.S. from Mexico as a toddler. “When the brothers used the word ‘illegal’ — illegal is not a word for us. We’re human just like you.”