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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Center on Halsted seeks to replace Walsh Security after community pressure
by Tim Peacock
2019-10-05

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At an Oct. 5 press conference, Lighthouse Foundation ( LF ) Board President Rev. Jamie Frazier and colleagues—who had just left a meeting with Center on Halsted ( the Center ) officials—announced that the Center has already issued a request for proposals to replace its controversial security contractor, Walsh Security, which has for months been a key goal for LF.

Center CEO Modesto Valle attended the meeting along with Board Chair Angela Barnes and Chief Program Officer Hector Torres. Karlyn Meyer and Rev. Tim Wolfe, both of whom are members of LF's CARE ( Coalition of Allies for Racial Equality ) Strategy Team, accompanied Frazier.

"The sense that I got from the meeting is that they have put this RFP out because of the strength of the people who are standing outside in this moment," said Frazier. "They recognize that continuing to employ Walsh Security is something the community is not going to tolerate."

LF formed after protests in Boystown in summer 2019 following Progress Bar's attempt to ban rap music. At meetings throughout the summer, community members and other stakeholders determined that LF needed to address the security issue at the Center. Walsh Security is owned by Thomas Walsh Sr., a 19th district Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) officer who has yet to serve a 60-day suspension related to a racially-charged November 2013 incident at The Lucky Horseshoe.

According to official accounts of the incident—accounts that were the subject of a two year investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority ( IPRA )—Walsh physically assaulted James Matthews, a black security guard at the bar. According to IPRA, during the course of the 2013 incident, Walsh used "profanity and racially motivated language towards James Matthews." In December 2014, Walsh told IPRA investigators he did not assault Matthews, but admitted he did use profane and racist language. "I did call him a [racial slur], which I regret," he said according to court records. Following their investigation, IPRA affirmed three of the four allegations made against Walsh and recommended a 60-day suspension.

Matthews settled with Walsh out of court in 2018 for an undisclosed amount, but Walsh appealed the IPRA determination. That appeal is still under review by the CPD. As of the September 2019 police board monthly public meeting, Walsh had still not served any portion of that suspension.

Frazier announced Aug. 10 that he and CARE would focus their protests on Valle, who has the power to retract Walsh's contract. On Sept. 3, LF sent a letter to Valle calling for the Center to end its relationship with Walsh Security.

Referring in the letter to actions already taken by the Center to alleviate community concerns, LF said, "While we trust that Walsh Security has taken steps to better educate and train its employees, the passage of time has not alleviated our concerns." They added, "We are also troubled by Walsh Security's wide-ranging instances of incompetence over the years, including providing private security without the required private contractor's licenses; employing a security guard who pled guilty to impersonating a police officer; and allowing guards who are not police to wear police insignia." At an Oct. 5 CARE meeting preceding the Center meeting, organizational allies discussed what to expect that morning, what had transpired at the September police board monthly public meeting, and the reasoning behind singling out the Center over other businesses and organizations in Boystown.

"We needed a beginning rallying point to organize this work around. The easiest one we saw was Walsh Security," said Strategy Team Member Allen Womble.

Meyer and Wolfe said that the Center had already posted the RFP two weeks earlier, and had emphasized "sensitivity to LGBTQ issues and anti-racism issues," according to Wolfe. There is a 30 day window for proposals that can be extended as needed.

Frazier said LF is committed to "share that RFP with community members...so that we can find security folks—particularly that are of color—that are going to be trans-affirming, that are going to be LGBTQ-plus competent."

He concluded, "One of the things that all three folks who were there representing the Center on Halsted were very clear [about] by the time we left that meeting, is that we ain't going nowhere. We will continue to meet with them, we will continue to engage them, and we will continue to insist change happens. And if that change does not happen, then we are prepared to deploy a whole host of tactics to ensure that it does."

To view the Center on Halsted RFP, visit http://centeronhalsted.org/Security/Security_RFP.pdf.

For more information on the Lighthouse Foundation, visit: www.facebook.com/lightfoundchi .


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