Chicago community forum addresses epidemic of violence facing young Americans – Liberation News
On June 12, the Party for Socialism and Liberation of Chicago held a community forum on the United States of Violence at the Chicago Liberation Center. With the recent Uvalde school shooting, which is just one of more than 200 mass shootings this year, it is clear that there is an epidemic of violence in the United States. PSL Chicago invited six members of the community to speak about their experience of youth violence.
A common thread among speakers was Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ineffectiveness in reducing violence. Instead, it criminalizes young people.
As PSL member Jim Santoyo pointed out, “There is an active campaign of fearmongering and hate on the part of Lori Lightfoot and her [police] Superintendent David Brown. If you believed them…every one of us was going to be carjacked or murdered on the way to work, and it would be gangs of young people doing it. And the biggest problem would be the parents of these fictional youngsters.
Lightfoot recently implemented a curfew for minors, after saying an increase in violence is due to unaccompanied children. Besides blaming the children, his solution to the violence was to increase the police budget. However, community members who spoke at the forum shared how the police only harmed the young people more.
Paul Morales, a member of the Young Lords, told forum attendees that he had recently seen “Fifty cops standing in a corner, [letting] the gangs on both sides of the street, talk [expletive] to one another. [Gang members] walked into a crowd with families and children… and only one cop followed them. A verbal altercation between the gang members broke out and it was Morales and another Young Lord who stood between the crowd, the cops and the gangs, to protect the crowd.
Elias Decker and Vivekae Kim of CPS Alumni for Abolition spoke about police presence in schools. Chicago Public Schools has a contract with the Chicago Police Department to place police officers in schools to promote safe environments. “When we started in June 2020, there were two at each CPS high school,” Decker said. CPS Alumni for Abolition collected testimonies and discovered that students had been thrown down stairs, punched in the body and beaten by school resource officers. Although the group was able to get police officers out of Northside High School, they still remain in the majority of CPS schools.
We also can’t forget how cops recently shot a 13-year-old and killed Adam Toledo and Anthony Alvarez.
Nicholas Stender, teacher and member of Reds in Ed, described disinvestment in schools as a form of violence. “What are the resources that are denied to us? We need books and librarians… our schools need nurses. We need counselors and mental health services for our young people.
He went on to ask, “What does it say about the inhumanity of the capitalist system…to deprive our young people of the resources they want and need? The Chicago teachers’ union has repeatedly called for grassroots resources. Still, the Lightfoot administration will cut the Chicago Public School budget, despite the district receiving $2.8 billion in federal COVID relief funds. His disinvestment in education further proves his disinterest in the protection of young people.
“We’ve already done the job the politicians claim to be doing,” said an activist and teacher who goes by the name That Kid From Pilsen. Several speakers urged participants to continue training and organizing.
Stender assured: “We will not allow our children to suffer the despair of this capitalist system for a moment longer. In fact, we call for an end to all criminalization of young people.