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December 19

As 50K Await Food Stamps Cut in Illinois, Protests Condemn Killing of 55 Year-Old Shoplifting Suspect in Chicago

Report back on several autonomous interventions at a Jewel-Osco grocery store in Chicago, after Eugenio Escriba, 55, was killed by staff following being detained for shoplifting.

On November 20th of 2019, 55-year-old Eugenio Escriba was murdered by a security guard at a Jewel-Osco grocery store (a local chain in the Chicago area). Eye-witnesses said that Eugenio refused and resisted being detained. They said that store security responded with a frightening level of force, as four employees and the guard wrestled him to the ground. He was subsequently pinned down by the main guard for some time before being hand-cuffed and taken to a room in the back of the store. By the time the police arrived, Eugenio Escriba had passed.

We came with a plan to have three teams in action: one holding down a table with multiple boxes of free produce from our food distro, a second using two banners to picket the entrance to the store, and a third that flyered passers-by and people in the store.

We decided to stage a protest one week later on November 27th, the night before “Thanksgiving” when there would be crowds of shoppers. We came with a plan to have three teams in action: one holding down a table with multiple boxes of free produce from our food distro, a second using two banners to picket the entrance to the store, and a third that flyered passers-by and people in the store. Multiple local news outlets turned out and were surprisingly sympathetic. Many neighbors had been misinformed about the nature of the death, saying that Eugenio simply had a heart-attack that coincided with his violent apprehension. Many were also thankful for our presence and disgusted that someone died trying to make ends meet.

A week later, we decided to return with a different strategy: this time, instead of picketing the store, one team would install a “ghost cart” (taking from the idea of using ghost bikes to memorialize cyclists) outside. We used candles and boughs of holly taken from the grocery store to decorate the cart. We spoke to a neighbor who didn’t know what had happened and was so enraged that he went in, stole two bottles of tequila, and showed them off to us, yelling, “FUCK THOSE GUYS, THIS IS FOR EUGENIO!!!”

We spoke to a neighbor who didn’t know what had happened and was so enraged that he went in, stole two bottles of tequila, and showed them off to us, yelling, “FUCK THOSE GUYS, THIS IS FOR EUGENIO!!!”

We held a moment of silence for Eugenio, shared our own emotions that his murder raise for us, and said a prayer for shoplifters.

Perhaps Eugenio Escriba couldn’t afford the cost of living or perhaps he couldn’t handle merely surviving for another day and wanted something to add sweetness and pleasure to his life. Regardless of whether it was hard necessity or a desire to feel the lightness and relief of abundance, Jewel-Osco made him pay for what he took with his life. It is reported that Mr. Escriba had schizophrenia. Many of us don’t know how we’re going to end up or how we’re going to make it when we’re 55. Many of us already shoplift out of both necessity and because we refuse to let the economy dictate who can have nice things.

As fare-evasion sparks revolutionary movements across the world, we hope that resistance to the cost of living spreads through autonomous actions and through memorializing those who fall to the forces of order. We hope that violent repression against shoplifters becomes a cause for mobilization and solidarity. In Illinois, 50,000 people are slated to have their food stamps revoked come New Years Day of 2020. We can only imagine that people who are up against their limits can connect to spirits like Eugenio Escriba, who refuse the lives that capitalism allots to them.

In Illinois, 50,000 people are slated to have their food stamps revoked come New Years Day of 2020.

And finally, we know that Eugenio Escriba is hardly the first and will not be the last to be killed for shoplifting. Just this past June, a mother of five was killed for shoplifting at a Walgreens in Chicago.

We hope that people continue to find rebellious ways to memorialize those who die rebelliously.

Blessed are those who steal because they are hungry.
Blessed are those who steal and share with their friends. 
The last shall be first, and the first last.

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