WOODLAWN — Earlier this month, a group of activists built a “healing village” in a vacant lot in Woodlawn. The village, with wooden structures, tents, water and snacks, was meant to serve as a place people could go if they needed someone to talk to, since the lone mental health clinic in Woodlawn was shut down by the city in 2012.
On Sunday, following a night of clashes between police and protesters in the wake of the police shooting of Harith Augustus, South Shore residents headed to the village, located in a lot at 63rd and Woodlawn, to cry, hug and share their stories.
Rachel Williams, who was in South Shore as police shoved and hit protesters with batons after protesters threw rocks and bottles, described the chaos to a small circle of about 12 people Sunday morning.
“We were barricaded in. We could not run. One of the organizers of Fearless Leaders of the Youth was hit to the point she started vomiting,” Williams said.
“They had no plan as to who they were hitting. They were just picking and yanking folks. When they hit that reporter from the Sun-Times I looked like ‘Ok, they are not playing game.’ Because if they have no discretion to a dude that says he has a press badge that’s when I knew everything was going left,” she said.
Nataki Rhodes, a community activist and member of Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, said she moved to South Shore recently and joined the protest soon after it started Saturday.
As she passed out literature from her organization and joined the march with her son, she quickly saw how dangerous things had become. She told her story through sobs in a healing village tent.
“I am traumatized,” Rhodes said, adding that once the confrontation between police and protesters became physical, her son took off to hide in a nearby church.
“Every black young man …they took with billy clubs. My friend Michael .. he came out there, he said, ‘I got your back.’ He’s the young man you see walking to his car [in a widely circulated video by Sun-Times reporter Nader Issa], and they grabbed him by his neck and just start beating him with the billy club.”
Augustus, 37, was shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer Saturday evening in the 2000 block of East 71st Street, and video of the shooting was released by CPD Sunday.
Police said protesters pelted them with rocks and water bottles, some filled with urine, following the shooting, and Supt. Eddie Johnson said he hoped video of the shooting would lead to calm in the neighborhood.
While the video did show that Augustus was armed, protesters were far from satisfied. Another march is planned for Monday evening, with Black Lives Matter and other groups calling for the release of arrested protesters and the names of the officer who shot Augustus — as well as the names of the officers who “brutalized” protesters.
“A general message we want to send to the city is that police do not keep us safe and they never have and they never will,” said Breanna Champion, an organizer with Black Youth Project 100. “Situations like this are just examples of that.”