Family members of Chicago police murder victim Rekia Boyd were joined by several hundred supporters on September 17 for a #SayHerName rally—the latest action in a campaign demanding the firing of Dante Servin, the cop who shot and killed the 22-year-old in 2012.
Servin was put on trial--the first Chicago cop prosecuted for an off-duty shooting in nearly two decades--but a judge threw out the charges due to a legal "technicality." Since then, Rekia's family and supporters have adjusted their actions to put pressure on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to fire Servin.
The shooting took place in Douglas Park on Chicago's West Side in March 2012. According to numerous accounts, Servin, who lives in the neighborhood and was off-duty, accosted a group of young African Americans. He claims a man with a gun advanced on him, and he opened fire, shooting between 15 to 18 bullets, witnesses say. Rekia and three of her friends were nearby, after leaving a party. Rekia was struck in the head--she died 36 hours later, having never regained consciousness.
The campaign for Rekia has been rallying every month at meetings of the Chicago Police Review Board (CPRB), the body within the police department that would decide on Servin's fate. The day before this month's rally, activists learned that the Independent Police Review Body (IPRA) had announced their recommendation that Servin be fired. The IPRA is a civilian-led, but unelected, body that reviews police misconduct cases. It lacks the power to implement its decisions, but the recommendation is a small victory that adds pressure on the CPD.
Now, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has 90 days to make his position known to the CPRB before they make their determination.
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WHILE AROUND 250 people remained outside, a smaller group of 50 went inside police headquarters on the city's South Side to show their support for Rekia's family. The room quickly filled up with people demanding justice for Rekia.
During the public hearing section of the meeting, many individuals spoke passionately about the problems with the police. Mark Clements, a survivor of torture by Chicago police commanded by the notorious Jon Burge and a local activist, called out the CPD for their racist and violent behavior. Clements called for cops like Servin guilty of misconduct to be stripped of their pensions.
Another speaker pointed out that Servin was able to purchase a home for a very low price through a special federal program called "Officer Next Door," which deliberately places cops in low-income neighborhoods. The program allows officers who have the power to arrest and are employed full time by a law enforcement agency to buy homes that were foreclosed on for half their appraised value and a $100 down payment.
Rekia Boyd's brother Martinez Sutton was the final speaker. Watched by his mother, sister and cousin, who he brought along to the hearing, Sutton reminded the board that Servin said Rekia's death was justified--and that Servin has a history of misconduct.
After that, the hearing ended, and activists held their signs high, showing photos of CPRB members and Superintendent McCarthy, with superimposed bloody handprints on them--a visualization of their complicity in Rekia's murder. As board members began to walk out, the audience followed, and chants of "Fire Servin" rang through the halls.
During their meeting, the same board that is dragging its feet on firing a police officer who murdered a young Black woman did decide to terminate four officers for much more minor infractions, such as "fraternizing with a marijuana buyer."
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OUTSIDE THE building, the larger crowd was still rallying for justice. There were speakers from a range of community organizations such as Black Youth Project 100, one of the event organizers, along with the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, Fight for 15, We Charge Genocide and the Rasmea Defense Committee.
Adriana Sanchez, a McDonald's worker and Fight for 15 activist, talked about her own encounters with police. "This system of policing didn't keep me safe," she said. "It didn't keep Rekia safe. It didn't keep Maya Hall safe. It didn't keep Sandra Bland safe. It will not keep my daughter safe...We should be able to live and work in our city without being terrorized and mistreated." Sanchez said as she linked the fights of low-wage workers with the fight against police terror.
Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression spoke about the need to keep up the fight and called for an independent review board that is both accountable and elected, with the authority to prosecute and fire killer cops.
After the rally ended, demonstrators marched several miles south to Dyett High School, another site of struggle in Chicago. A number of parents and community members were in the midst of a hunger strike to save Dyett, the Bronzeville neighborhood's last public, open enrollment high school, after the Chicago Public School (CPS) system decided to permanently close it. The march to Dyett helped connect the physical violence meted out by police with the economic violence of austerity, school closings and budget cuts.
Dyett hunger striker and CPS parent Anna Jones spoke at the end of the march about the importance of solidarity, pointing out: "It's not just Black people here. There's people of all colors here. This is something that they don't want us to do."
Building on this spirit of solidarity is what's needed to continue the struggle. The IPRA's decision to recommend firing comes as a direct result of pressure and organizing from below--more will be needed to get rid of Dante Servin for good.
The next public police board hearing is scheduled for October 15.
This story was originally published Socialist Worker.