Activists gathered at Chicago City Hall, just outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, on April 20 for a rally to demand both the firing of Chicago police officer Dante Servin without benefits as well as the allocation of funds for Chicago State University ( CSU ).
The protest was organized by a coalition that included members of Black Youth Project 100, Assata's Daughters, Black Lives Matter: Chicago and Fearless Leading by the Youth. Many involved were instrumental in organizing against Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez following the release of the video of the Laquan McDonald shooting.
Protesters held a banner, "Remember Rekia," marked with the hashtags "#DontPayDante" and "#SaveCSU." Page May, an organizer with Assata's Daughters, said the activists were moving into a moment of "rapid response" in order to see Servin's job and pension rescinded and CSU's funding restored.
Servin was acquitted on a technicality in April 2015 for the March 21, 2012, killing of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed Black woman. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but, in a directed verdict, the judge said that no recklessness was proven in the state's attorney's case against Servin, and hinted that charges of first-degree murder would have been appropriate instead.
Former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Emanuel called for Servin's firing last fall; his case is now with the Independent Police Review Board and a hearing on the matter is expected in May. Emanuel eventually fired McCarthy, who he recently replaced with Eddie Johnson. Alvarez lost her re-election bid in the March 2016 primary.
Martinez Sutton, Boyd's brother, has been fighting to bring attention to the case since shortly after his sister's death. He called the 2015 ruling "a slap in the face," adding, "My sister didn't do anything wrong."
Sutton noted that Servin was on paid leave"a four-year paid vacation"while his case is decided. "Next month, Dante is supposed to be sitting before a police board. We're going to be there in numbers," he said.
CSU's fate has been in the balance since the school has not received its funding from the state for the current fiscal year while Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly have been unable to agree on a budget. Faculty, administration and students have been scrambling in anticipation of a shutdown once the school, whose student body is predominantly made up of persons of color, runs out of money.
Charles Preston, a senior at CSU, said, "People go to CSU to get other opportunities in life. … Why the hell would you take away an institution that saves lives?"
Rachel Williams, of Black Youth Project 100, noted that CSU budget is just a minuscule fraction of how much the city spends on policing each month. Kofi, an activist with Black Lives Matter Chicago, said that the CSU closing was part of a systemic effort to destabilize Black institutions and businesses.
"We can care less about reforms," Kofi said. "We can care less about holding individuals accountable, as if it isn't a whole system that's oppressing us. Repression is defunding institutions like Chicago State University."
May was blunt about the coalition's plans in the weeks ahead, as Servin's trial and the CSU deadline loom.
"We have a month and a half to make sure that Dante doesn't get paid his pension and that CSU stays open," she said. "We will be pulling out all of our tactics, all of our creativity, all of our people, to make sure that that is the case."
The coalition launched a website that will update the community on its progress and plans, she noted, adding a message for individuals and organizations their protest is targeting. "…This is to the CPD, to Rahm, to Rauner, to Madigan, to [Fraternal Order of Police], to Laurie Lightfoot: I want you all to know that this is not a time for you to 'do the right thing,' or a time for you to 'do your job.' We are well-past that. This is a time for you to be ashamed of yourself, and we're going to make sure you feel that way over the next month and a half. Expect resistance. Expect disruption. Expect to feel a small sample of the weight of our pain and the power of our love for Black people and for each other. For my people, remember that justice is on our side. Love does win. … Remember that, and remember Rekia, and we will win."