WOODLAWN — Continuing a wave of demonstrations demanding less funding for police departments, protesters rallied Friday night at University of Chicago to urge reforms -— and eventual elimination — of the police force at the South Side campus.
The CareNotCops campaign led the demonstration at UChicago police headquarters, 6054 S. Drexel Ave. A rally and march started Friday afternoon in the university’s Main Quadrangle, continued with a peaceful sit-in for several hours and culminated in a community breakfast and rally Saturday morning.
The University of Chicago Police Department is one of the largest private police forces in the United States and is not subject to the same transparency laws as municipal departments.
Citing reports that more than 90 percent of people stopped by the department’s officers from 2015-2017 were Black, protesters voiced their concerns with the department — which extends far beyond the university’s central campus — and made four demands:
- Cut the police department’s 2020-2021 budget by at least 50 percent and redistribute the funds to community-driven projects on the South Side.
- Ban officers from any use of force, including guns and tasers.
- Disclose the university’s budget for the department and all other public safety measures for the past 20 years.
- Release a plan by October to disband the UCPD by 2022.
The university should put the “massive amounts of money” budgeted for its police department toward funding community groups like Black Youth Project 100 and Assata’s Daughters, said attendee Jacob Secor.
Groups like these and the social services they advocate for could render the University of Chicago Police Department “obsolete,” Secor said as he sat outside the department’s headquarters with other protesters.
“This can’t be a moment; it needs to be a movement, and it has been a movement for a long time,” Secor said.
Charles Thomas, the UChicago student shot by a campus officer during a reported mental health episode in 2018, called in to give a speech to rallygoers. Thomas’ shooting has fueled much of the local activism to overhaul UChicago police.
Released on bail from Cook County Jail in April after two prior denials despite developing coronavirus symptoms, Thomas is on house arrest pending a trial on charges from the incident.
Thomas joined representatives of GoodKids MadCity, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and other police abolition groups in speaking to the crowd.
The sit-in began around 3:30 p.m., with protesters freely moving in and out of the building as campus police officers monitored the situation.
Organizers handed out supplies while encouraging attendees to mingle, discuss the demands and create protest art.
“It’s not just the idea of defunding police,” said organizer Kosarachi Achife. “We have snacks, we have water, we have people on standby to bring food, we have tents that will be coming soon to house people — we are showing that we do not need police to keep each other safe and keep each other cared for.”
By 5 p.m., university staff locked the building and protesters inside were barred from receiving deliveries of pizza and water due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, University of Chicago officials said in a statement.
“No one has or is preventing you from leaving the building,” officials said in a statement given to protesters about 7:15 p.m.
In response, a large crowd remained outside police headquarters for an all-night rally. Organizers asked protesters to call UChicago police and Deans-On-Call, demanding protesters be allowed to use the bathroom and negotiate directly with Chief of Police Kenton Rainey and Provost Ka Yee Lee.
Makeshift barricades were built using cars, protesters’ bicycles and dumpsters from neighboring buildings as rumors swirled of the Chicago Police Department’s arrival late Friday night. Chicago police did not intervene as of 11 p.m. Friday.
Rainey spoke with protestors inside around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, offering to meet with protesters Monday morning. About an hour later, the sit-in and protest ended.
The protest at UChicago was one of numerous anti-police demonstrations held on the South Side this past weekend, including:
- A Muslims for Abolition jummah and rally Friday afternoon at 37th Street and King Drive.
- A rally for a Civilian Police Accountability Council Friday evening. It was held in Washington Park, where 25-year-old Ronald “RonnieMan” Johnson was killed by Chicago Police officer George Hernandez in October 2014.
- A protest at the Cook County Jail Saturday evening, where at least one person was arrested.
- A graduation march from Hyde Park High School to the Chicago Police Department’s 3rd District headquarters Sunday afternoon, calling for the removal of police from Chicago Public Schools.
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