Welcome to Issue #23 of the Red Star Bulletin!
The aim of this bulletin is to bring Chicago Democratic Socialists of America members a regular round-up of important legislation, committee meetings, and other updates from City Hall, as well as an analysis of what this means for our organizing as socialists.
Make no mistake: the City Council is not friendly terrain for us. We must first and foremost continue to build power in the places it derives from–our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and the streets. But we hope to give CDSA members the information they need to assess the electoral project we’re embarking on and to continue building it into a powerful vehicle for working-class politics in our city.
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Empowering Communities for Public Safety
Supporters of two proposed ordinances for civilian police oversight in Chicago—CPAC (Civilian Police Accountability Council) and GAPA (Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability)—have linked arms behind a combined proposal that they are calling the “people’s ordinance.”
At a press conference on Friday, March 19th, supporters of CPAC and GAPA unveiled the ECPS (Empowering Communities for Public Safety) Ordinance. ECPS would create a seven-member civilian commission that would oversee the existing COPA (Civilian Office of Police Accountability) agency, the Police Superintendent, and Police Board members. It would also direct policy for the Chicago Police Department and operate transparently. Most importantly, the ordinance is that it shifts power away from the mayor and into the hands of the people.
If ECPS passes the City Council, Chicagoans would vote during the March 15, 2022 primary for three members of a District Council in each of the city’s 22 police districts. Among other duties, the 66 council members would select a 22-member committee that would nominate the seven-member commission for the mayor and City Council to confirm. It is also important to note that the mayor still has to confirm the selection or removal of the CPD Superintendent as well as the selection or removal of the members and president of the police board.
Mayor Lightfoot recently claimed that she “started the conversation” about civilian oversight of police. But it was CAARPR (Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression) and its allies who marched on the streets of Chicago in August 2013 to demand that CPAC replace IRPA (Independent Police Review Authority), the body that preceded COPA. Lightfoot was practicing law as a senior partner at Mayer Brown when these demands were beginning to arise. She was still years away from being part of the conversation at all.
When Lightfoot was appointed Chicago Police Board President in 2016, she wrote to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, arguing that an oversight board designed without community input would “fall flat.” “In this time that we’re in, the old ways of doing things, drafting things behind closed doors, not engaging the public in a narrative and a discussion about the substance of public policy, are just not going to work,” she said.
But after being elected mayor, Lightfoot withdrew her support for the GAPA proposal. She said her main reason for withdrawing support was that the mayor would not have the final say on police policy. Even though GAPA included more concessions to the mayor than the CPAC proposal; this bulletin asserted in 2019 that it would help maintain the status quo.
In the face of growing and renewed support for a police oversight board during the summer 2020 uprisings and continuing calls for CPD officers to be removed from schools in Chicago, Lightfoot deployed the National Guard against protestors. Shortly after Lightfoot’s handpicked school board voted against kicking CPD out of CPS schools at the end of last summer, Lightfoot declared that she was “moving on” from GAPA and would introduce her own vision for police oversight in “October or November.” That never happened and still hasn’t.
Since the beginning of 2021, Lightfoot opted to postpone votes on GAPA and CPAC, claiming that her own ordinance was on the way without offering any specifics on what it entailed. In reality, she was doing what she condemned in 2016: drafting an ordinance behind closed doors without input from the wider community. Alderman Taliaferro, the chairman of the Committee on Public Safety, cancelled the last two Public Safety meetings at Lightfoot’s request to give the mayor time to craft her own plan. Prior to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial on April 20th, Lightfoot once again deployed the National Guard to Chicago’s streets. The next day, members of Mayor Lightfoot’s External Transition Team’s Good Governance Committee wrote a letter to Mayor Lightfoot expressing disappointment in her “inaction and excuses” over failing to deliver her campaign promises on police accountability and transparency.
The CPD murder of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, committed by 10th District Officer Eric Stillman in Little Village on March 29th, has devastated the Chicago community and beyond. This comes as the Minneapolis community protests the murder of Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter. On April 10th, Prosecutor James Murphy lied about Adam Toledo holding a gun and being told twice to “drop it” before Stillman shot him. It wasn’t until moments before the video of the killing was released five days later that this statement was corrected. Some 7,000 people marched through Logan Square the next day to demand justice. Two days after the murder of Adam Toledo, Anthony Alvarez was shot at least five times in the back and killed by 16th District Officer Evan Solano, who amassed 11 use-of-force complaints from 2017 to 2020. Solano yelled to the other officer trying to provide aid to Alvarez to “cuff him.” CPD has not provided any answers as to why the pursuit of Alvarez happened in the first place.
Our community desperately needs sustained healing from the suffering of Black and Brown communities when people are harmed and killed by police. Police violence exists as both a spectre and kinetic threat to our everyday lives. And we don’t just need sustained healing—we need a long-term plan for how we will defund the Chicago Police Department and, one day, abolish the police altogether. ECPS is a step in that direction.
The Red Star Bulletin was conceived by Ramsin Canon and is a project of the Political Education & Policy Committee. This issue was drafted by CDSA members. Special contributions were made by Brent Glass, Sean Kase, Charlotte Kissinger, and Alan Maass. Graphics were contributed by Patrick O’Connell and Jon Lyons. If you would like to contribute to the Red Star Bulletin or have any feedback, email email@example.com.