PI Original Ellyn Fortino Wednesday April 29th, 2015, 12:34pm

Chicagoans Hold Peaceful Protest In 'Solidarity' With Baltimore (VIDEO)

Hundreds of Chicagoans took to the city's South Side streets Tuesday evening in a peaceful "solidarity demonstration" for the people of Baltimore, which has seen public unrest over the death of Freddie Gray. Progress Illinois was there for the demonstration, which kicked off with a rally at Chicago police headquarters followed by a march to Midway Plaisance Park.

Hundreds of Chicagoans took to the city's South Side streets Tuesday evening in a peaceful "solidarity demonstration" for the people of Baltimore, which has seen public unrest over the death of Freddie Gray.

Gray, a 25-year-old African-American male, died a week after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in Baltimore police custody.

Tuesday's protest in Chicago, which kicked off with a rally at police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., came one day after Gray's funeral, which sparked riots and looting to break out in Baltimore.

During the Chicago rally, local activists and relatives of police shooting victims, including Rekia Boyd's brother Martinez Sutton, addressed the crowd of several hundred people. From there, protesters began to march south at about 8 p.m. The march, which picked up more people along the way, arrived at its final destination point, Midway Plaisance Park in Hyde Park, at about 10:30 p.m. Protesters disbanded shortly thereafter.

The Chicago demonstration was not violent, though there were a few contentious moments with protesters and police. One person was arrested for reckless conduct, according to Chicago Police News Affairs.

A statement issued by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) in response to Tuesday's protest said: "The Chicago Police Department will always protect residents' right to free speech and peaceful assembly. As you have seen over the past several years, protests have been all peaceful and CPD goes to great lengths to ensure protesters First Amendment rights."

Michael Elliot with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) was one of the speakers at the rally outside Chicago police headquarters. He said his group "stands firmly in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of Baltimore."

"Our heart goes out to the family of Freddie Gray, a skinny young black man whose body was broke up like a pretzel," Elliot said. "This is the type of hatred and brutality that many of these police officers have in their hearts for us. This is what we have to face every day ... Police have to be held accountable. Right now, they're operating with impunity. They don't even give it a second thought about being charged or held accountable for their actions."

Chicago protesters reiterated their demands for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council in the city and the firing of Detective Dante Servin, who was acquitted last week of the charges he faced in the shooting death of 22-year-old Boyd, an unarmed African-American female who was killed when Servin shot into a crowd that he was arguing with over the amount of noise they were making.

Aislinn Sol with the group We Charge Genocide delivered a call to action on those demands and other issues.

"We need to have a deep and critical conversation on how we get rid of this system. This police system does not serve us," she told rallygoers. "When they say they serve and protect, who are they serving and protecting? When they broke Freddie Gray's back, who were they serving and protecting?

"When Dante Servin got off with no charges, who were they serving and protecting? So what do we need to do? We need to come together, and we need to organize, and we need to figure out how we are going to ensure that Dante Servin is fired and is incapable of serving on any police force in the state of Illinois," she continued. "We are demanding accountability. No longer are we going to sit by and allow ourselves to be killed and brutalized and raped."

Sutton, Boyd's brother, discussed what happened after and leading up to Servin's trial.

"Once [Servin] was let off and found not guilty, he said he has no remorse. You have no damn remorse for taking a life of an innocent young black woman? We don't have no remorse for you," he said at the rally, adding that, "We begged, pleaded, 'Please give him second degree. Please give him first degree.' But what a lot of folks don't know is that they had him with second degree already. They told us, called us the weekend before they was going to announce the charges, that we gonna hit him with second degree murder. Ok. When Monday comes, involuntary manslaughter."

Here's more from Sutton and scenes from the protest, plus additional comments from BYP 100 organizer Malcolm London and Dorothy Holmes, the mother of 25-year-old Ronald Johnson, who was fatally shot by Chicago police last October:

Later in the evening, activists attempted to head in the direction of the University of Chicago Police Department's headquarters, where they wanted to draw attention to pending state legislation that would extend provisions of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to private university security forces. Chicago police prohibited protesters from marching in that direction, blocking the road at 55th Street and Drexel Avenue.

During the peaceful and brief standoff with police at the intersection, which occured shortly before 10 p.m., demonstrators sat on the road and observed a moment of silence to honor those who have been killed by police. After that, they resumed their march to Midway Plaisance Park.

Tuesday's protest followed news earlier in the day from the CPD that it plans to hold neighborhood meetings with city residents to discuss the issues surrounding the "national discussion" taking place about police department practices. According to a CPD press release, the police department seeks to "build and sustain trust" with Chicagoans.

Speaking during the rally, Elliot with CAARPR said, "We all need to be at every one of [those meetings] raising hell."

"We need to make sure that our voices get heard wherever and whenever [Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy] speaks 'cuz he needs to go, along with [Cook County State's Attorney] Anita Alvarez. They need to go."

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