BRONZEVILLE — A group of young activists are hosting a press conference outside of Chicago Police headquarters Wednesday to criticize the department’s new pledge to break up unauthorized block parties and large gatherings in the city.
Last week, the Chicago Police Department held a news conference about plans to tackle violence in the city after a bloody weekend left more than 70 people shot.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told reporters that officers would be keeping an eye on “large, unsanctioned street parties,” which he said had been the scene of several shootings that weekend. The department said their focus was successful, and pointed to a murder-free weekend on Monday.
But a youth activist group said this strategy continues to harm relationships between the police and the people they serve.
“Good Kids Mad City stands firmly against Eddie Johnson and Rahm Emanuel,” the group said in a press release. “They believe teens should be able to be outside without fearing of being shot or getting harassed by the police. Youth should have more safe spaces to play and have fun yet CPD wants to institute fascist [martial] law on Black youth! Safety looks like healthy well resourced neighborhoods and not police.”
Good Kids Mad City leaders said it’s frustrating to see the city add more police to neighborhoods instead of investing in “schools, youth job development, mental health care, trauma informed schools and community centers that focus on restorative justice.”
Kofi Ademola, an adult mentor for the group, accused Johnson and Emanuel of “victim blaming instead of taking responsibility for having only a 17 percent clearance rate on homicides or even charging people.”
“Then martial law Eddie is talking about … disrupting so-called unauthorized block parties where there are 10 or more people … they’re going to threaten them with arrest,” Ademola said. “So instead of creating safe spaces they are going to shrink safe spaces and marginalize an already disenfranchised community.”
Aside from policing tactics, the group also wants to draw attention to a conflict between police and activists at the Bud Billiken Parade over the weekend, where rapper Vic Mensa butted heads with officers over a banner and was allegedly threatened with arrest.
According to the Sun-Times, Mensa finished leading the parade then joined it – alongside other activists carrying a “Convict Jason Van Dyke” banner.
Good Kids Mad City was part of that activist group, Ademola said.
“The Bud Billiken was a so-called authorized safe space where young people should’ve had the freedom of expression,” Ademola said. “Good Kids Mad City weren’t there to protest the Bud Billiken, they weren’t there to protest at all, they were there as active participants to spread their message around gun violence prevention and police accountability.”
Ademola said youth from Good Kids Mad City were pushed, shoved and were threatened with expulsion from the parade and possible arrest by Chicago police.
In separate video footage, Mensa can be seen having a confrontation with Chicago police which can be linked to his effort to diffuse the situation between Chicago Police and Good Kids Mad City. Ademola said Mensa and his organization, Save Money Save Life, had an established relationship with Good Kids Mad City prior to the parade.
“We were there because of Vic Mensa,” Ademola said. “So Vic was at the head of the parade and when he heard about us being harassed by the police he rode his motorcycle back to where we were and he told the police they have a right to be here and next thing he knows he’s been threatened with arrest and they’re asking him for his ID and harassing him.”
Mensa did not respond to requests for comment. The day before the Bud Billiken Parade he gave away backpacks with AT&T to help families get ready to go back to school.
The press conference is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on August 15 at Chicago Police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave.