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July 15

Report from the front-lines of Chicago, after police murdered Harith Augustus, a father and local barber. Imminently crowds began to grow and soon clashes broke out. Currently, more protests are planned.

by @soit_goes

Last night, Chicago Police shot and killed Harith Augustus at 71st and Jeffery, in the South Shore neighborhood. Harith, known to his friends at Snoop, was a father and barber that was loved in his community. Immediately following his murder, dozens of community members began holding space in a parking lot across from the scene at 71st and Chappel. Tension was high as the community stood nose-to-nose for several hours with the police department that stole Harith’s life.

After several hours, police charged into the peaceful crowd with batons out. Several people were thrown to the ground, and two people were taken into custody. At least one of those individuals was released on site, but the other is to believed to still be in CPD custody. As police retreated, the atmosphere calmed and the crowd continued to grow. This would prove to be the calm preceding a much larger storm.

Around 9pm, police lifted the wooden barricades they had erected between the street and the parking lot and again charged the crowd with their batons. Police began chasing people in every direction of the crowded parking lot. It was the definition of a police riot. Officers were seen shoving people to the ground, throwing punches, striking people with their batons, and kicking people who were already being held to the ground by several officers. The wrath of CPD’s brutality was not spared on anyone, and legal observers and press (a lone Chicago Sun-Times crime reporter) were also shoved and hit with batons. Video has surfaced of Chicago Police knocking the cell phone of the Sun-Times reporter to ground even after he had shown them his press credentials. Two people were arrested during the police riot, and both were released without charges after being taken to the station. It’s safe to say that CPD had no reason to take either of these people into custody in the first place.

The attack lasted somewhere between five and ten minutes in total. The media has chosen to focus on plastic water bottles that were thrown toward police during the melee, but any objects thrown were simply self defense. Regardless of whether objects any police officers were even hit by an empty plastic water bottle, there is no excuse for the brutality Chicago Police released on that crowd last night. The viciousness of CPD against demonstrators yesterday has few points of comparison; in fact, there are only two instances in recent memory that come to mind as possibly comparable. The first is the march for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, which shut down the Taste of Chicago and was brutally attacked by CPD on Michigan Avenue. On May Day 2016, a black bloc march was pummeled by CPD before twelve people were arrested on LaSalle Street. The notable difference between those two events and last night is that yesterday’s crowd wasn’t shutting down a street or an intersection–or even blocking a sidewalk–it was simply gathered in a parking lot demanding justice for Harith’s life.

Once things quieted down after the second police attack, the crowd regrouped and BYP100 led a march to the police station where arrested demonstrators had been taken. More than 100 people stood outside the third district police station for more than two hours. The group chanted and shared stories of their experiences with the Chicago Police Department while sharing food and water that been brought to the scene from supporters across the city.

Harith’s life mattered. He is the third person to have been shot by the Chicago Police Department since July 1st of this year, and he is the second to have been killed. Harith’s legacy now joins those of Rekia Boyd, Bettie Jones, Laquan McDonald, Pierre Loury, Ronnieman Johnson, Quintonio LeGrier, Paul O’Neal, and the countless other young people that have had their lives taken by the Chicago Police Department in recent years.

Chicago is the cross-hairs of the epidemic of police violence, and it is also the center of a growing movement to abolish the police. Over the last few months, young organizers of color have led the #NoCopAcademy campaign, which is calling for the $95 million designated to build a new police academy to be diverted to community resources like schools and mental health clinics. Chicago is showing the the rest of the country that there is a way out of this nightmare of police violence that has become impossible to ignore. By investing in our communities, in resources that actually keep us safe, we can live in a world without police. We can live in a world where we don’t learn about the violent loss of our friends and neighbors, like Harith Augustus, because their life was stolen by police. Another world is possible.

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