Here come the outside agitators
Two days after a violent confrontation involving police at the Christopher Columbus monument in Grant Park, President Donald Trump threatened to deploy 150 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents to Chicago to crack down on gang violence and civil unrest. Many who have been following the military-style intervention in Portland, Oregon, after a series of protests, fear that the same unconstitutional practices will be applied here. The immigrant community is all too familiar with being the target of unidentified agents in unmarked vehicles who conduct overnight raids and what amount to public kidnappings. But most residents don’t know the multiple agencies and units under DHS—which include Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—and the dangerous tactics they employ when they partner with local law enforcement. A recent report found that, in the past three months, ICE asked CPD to help them detain immigrants fourteen times, but police refused in accordance with the city’s Welcoming City Ordinance, which designates Chicago a sanctuary city. But last week, Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara sent a letter to Trump asking for help. The mayor said she would welcome a partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It’s unclear what local protections there are, if any, for protesters and other civilians who could be the target of these outside agitators.
Obama Center CBA advances
Despite Mayor Lightfoot initially not cooperating with residents of Woodlawn, Washington Park, and South Shore in crafting a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that would protect them from the planned Obama Presidential Center development—and residents organizing protests, caravans, and even a “Lightfoot’s Tent City” to show the city what displacement could look like—both sides had an amicable sit-down this week. Twentieth Ward Alderman Jeanette Taylor and 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston are supporting changes to an ordinance from the mayor that would designate thirty percent affordable housing on a quarter of the vacant lots owned by the city. A grant program will loosen requirements for homeowners of more than five years. And the Department of Housing will seek $675,000 in federal grants to supplement $500,000 in existing funds to help long-standing residents buy homes in their neighborhood. Although Taylor’s original CBA proposal pushed for thirty percent affordability for all new construction and the creation of a public trust fund, community organizers still call the negotiation a victory.
Voting for cops in schools during a pandemic
More than seventy Local School Councils (LSCs) have until August 15 to vote individually on whether to keep or remove CPD School Resource Officers (SROs) in their schools. Northside College Prep was the first in the city to vote unanimously to eliminate cops in schools. In an advisory vote, Roberto Clemente Community Academy also voted in favor of removing officers. Pilsen’s Benito Juarez Academy’s LSC—which voted unanimously to retain SROs last summer—became the first on the South Side to cancel cops in their school this week. They were also the first to publicly discuss the report from the Office of the Inspector General, which was not in the “LSC toolkit” that CPS provided administrators ahead of the vote. However, other South Side schools such as Goode STEM Academy, Kenwood Academy, and Corliss High School have voted to maintain a police presence. Many schools are still collecting input, while over a dozen schools with SROs have no LSCs or have LSCs without voting power. Now, CPS plans to have high school freshmen and sophomores only attending school twice a week in the fall, and upperclassmen doing remote learning full-time during the pandemic. Will the school board renew their contract with CPD in August, and would our tax dollars be used for cops to patrol nearly empty buildings?