JEFFERSON PARK — A Northwest Side community group fighting racism wants police to reschedule a fundraiser so it won’t coincide with the date the state will celebrate the abolition of slavery.
A “We Support Police” rally and fundraiser is scheduled for June 19 at the Jefferson Park Police District, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave. On the same day, people across the city, state and country will be celebrating Juneteenth — which will mark 154 years since the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Most states (including Illinois) observe Juneteenth (June 19) as an official or ceremonial holiday.
Members of the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism & Hate want the police district to reschedule the event out of respect for those celebrating Juneteenth, a special day for black Chicagoans who have experienced police violence and other discrimination.
“The City of Chicago continues to struggle with racial equity and justice,” the group wrote in a letter to aldermen, police and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office. “A federal judge and the Justice Department has determined the Chicago Police Department requires reform specifically due to a concerning record of civil rights violations. One simple step towards healing, in the City of Chicago, would be for Northwest Side communities and the 16th police district to specifically recognize and respect Juneteeth Day, on June 19, 2019, as a national and state day of observation to celebrate civil rights.”
The coalition initially sent the letter out June 12 to Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), Ald. James Gardiner (45th), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th), Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.
“That rally has happened before but this is the first time that it’s happening on June 19. It started out as a police lives matter rally. So there are definitely racial undertones,” said Pastor Shawna Bowman, a member of the coalition.
Last year, Ald. Sposato, a former Chicago firefighter and Napolitano, a former police officer, hosted the event at the Jefferson Park station, which also caused controversy.
“Given everything that’s come to light over the years it’s clear that racial bias is at work in our city’s systems and in CPD’s policing,” Bowman said. “So our request is that if the city is committed to addressing this then the 16th District should move the event to show some kind of sensitivity if they didn’t know about Juneteenth.”
Organizers plan to sell shirts for $10 that say “Support Your Local Police” and signs that read “We Support Our Police” for $5, according to the flyer posted by the Coalition.
Alds. Napolitano, Gardiner, Sposato and Mayor Lightfoot’s office were not available for comment. Police confirmed the fundraiser is still scheduled for June 19 but Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was not available for comment.
Here’s the full letter:
June 12, 2019
Alderman Anthony Napolitano, 41st Ward
7442 N. Harlem
Chicago, IL 60631
Submitted Electronically to: Ward41@cityofchicago.org
Alderman James Gardiner, 45th Ward
5425 W. Lawrence
Chicago, Il 606301`
Submitted Electronically to: Ward45@cityofchicago.org
Alderman Nicholas Sposato, 38th Ward
3821 N. Harlem 60634
Submitted Electronically to: Ward38@cityofchicago.org
RE: Request to Move Support Police Rally to a Day Other Than Juneteenth Day.
The Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism & Hate (NWSCRH) is writing to respectfully request that you change the day of the 16th District “Local Police Support Rally” to a day other than June 19th, 2019. Juneteenth Day is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States and is commemorated on June 19th every year in 47 states within the United States.
Juneteenth was recognized as an Illinois state holiday in June 2003 in a General Assembly bill brought by then-State Senator Barack Obama. Juneteenth is not meant for only African-Americans, Obama said in June 2016.
“On this Juneteenth, we remember that struggle as we reflect on how far we’ve come as a country,” he said. “Juneteenth is a time to recommit ourselves to the work that remains undone. We remember that even in the darkest hours, there is cause to hope for tomorrow’s light.”
In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for black people. The decades after the end of the war would see a wave of lynching, imprisonment, and Jim Crow laws take root. What followed was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies, and a lack of economic investment for people of color. And now, national and local attention is focused on acts of police violence and the need for police reform. While some progress has been made in black America’s 150 years out of slavery, considerable barriers continue to impede progress toward freedom and justice for all.
The City of Chicago continues to struggle with racial equity and justice. A federal judge and the Justice Department has determined the Chicago Police Department requires reform specifically due to a concerning record of civil rights violations. One simple step towards healing, in the City of Chicago, would be for Northwest Side communities and the 16th police district to specifically recognize and respect Juneteeth Day, on June 19, 2019, as a national and state day of observation to celebrate civil rights.
Please consider moving the 16th Police District “Local Police Support Rally” to any other day.
Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate
Cc: Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Superintendent Eddie Johnson
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.