Community members and activists gathered in Douglas Park on Saturday afternoon to call for justice in the shooting death of Rekia Boyd as the April 9 trial date approaches for Dante Servin, the Chicago police officer who shot and killed her three years ago.
On March 21, 2012, Boyd, 22, was shot by Detective Servin, who while off duty, confronted a group of people Boyd was with near the park after reportedly being "frustrated" by noise coming from a nearby block party. According to the Huffington Post, Servin told the group to quiet down from his car as they were leaving the park, which sparked an altercation. Servin alleged that one of the men with Boyd, Antonio Cross, pointed a gun at him, and so he opened fire. Cross was struck in the hand and Boyd in the head. She died two days later.
"How can a family grieve when nothing has been done about her murder," asked Martinez Sutton, Boyd's 32-year-old brother. "Who's going to take the responsibility for my sister's death?"
Cross was later determined to have been holding a cell phone and no weapon was ever recovered from the scene.
Servin is charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct. He is only the second officer since 1997 to be indicted for killing a civilian. The detective was stripped of some of his powers and placed on desk duty after the shooting.
"If anybody out here was pointed out for a crime on the street, we'd be behind bars until proven innocent," said Sutton. "As you see, it's reversed when it's officers of the law or someone higher up. They get to walk free, enjoy their family time ... it's not a punishment."
The City of Chicago settled a $4.5 million lawsuit with Boyd's family last March, but as in many cases, resisted admitting to any wrongdoing in the incident.
"You know what happened to the cops," asked Sutton. "Nothing. Paid leave, just like the officer that killed my sister."
Community activists who attended the rally said Boyd's shooting is all too common and part of a pattern of police violence that disproportionately affects people of color, particularly women and transgender people.
"We want to highlight the way violence disproportionately affects women of color," said Danielle Villarreal, a representative of the group Feminist Uprising to Resist Inequality and Exploitation (FURIE), who helped organize the demonstration. "Our sisters are often forgotten, and we want their names, stories and struggles highlighted."
"Everyday we're all impacted by these acts of senseless violence," said Monica James, another community activist. "There's a diverse crowd of people who believe in an end to violence, police violence, tearing down our communities."
The activists say the response by law enforcement in instances surrounding police shootings of unarmed victims mirrors the alleged experience of some women in sexual assault cases.
"When we organize against sexual assault, we recognize that police cannot keep us safe. When the police tell women that our clothing says 'we're asking for it,' that is the same victim blaming that is used against youth of color who happen to get killed while wearing hoodies," said another FURIE member Lauren, who didn't want to provide her last name.
In addition to preparing for "possible disappointment" in the upcoming trial for Servin, Sutton said he had difficulty working with police in getting information surrounding his sister's death.
"All we asked for, all my mother wanted, was her (Rekia's) belongings. We asked for her purse and everything that was in it. They sent us her purse, but none of her belongings, just some of her hair with blood in it," Sutton recalled.
Sutton also said that he's received criticism for speaking out about Rekia's death.
"For me speaking out for my sister dying, people think it's an all out assault on police officers," he said. "It's not that. If someone on the street killed her, I'd be doing the same thing. It just happened to be a police detective that took her life. You have taped killings and officers are let off, why?"
The group says they plan to "pack the courtroom" on April 9 to show support for Sutton and Boyd's family.