BY JOHN STUDER
CHICAGO - "They are going to hear my voice," Vanessa Laurence told a crowd of more than 100 people at the Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church on Chicago's south side May 2. Two days earlier Joseph Winfield, Laurence's nephew, was hit with a police car while on foot and then shot to death by Chicago cops.
"Joe was on his way to get a car, he had just started a job, he was getting his life together. He said to me that he was going to get a car and come home and drive me to the grocery, and he got his life taken away from him," Laurence, accompanied by seven other members of her family, told the mostly Black audience. "I've been told by a number of eyewitnesses, people who came forward to talk to me, that Joseph was run down by a police car, shot in the leg, and then the police continued to shoot when he was down. He was shot six or seven times in the back. This is a case of murder."
There were numerous witnesses to the killing. Several told the Chicago Tribune the same story they told to Vanessa Laurence. The cops claimed they drove Winfield down with their car to take "evasive action," after detaining two other people who were with him. Harold Quitmon, one of the eyewitnesses, told the Tribune that Winfield "didn't try to get up at all" before he was shot.
"Thank you for your outpouring of support," Laurence told the protesters at the church rally, "we've got to stick together."
The rally had been organized to broaden support for march against cop brutality planned for May 19 on the anniversary of the birth of Malcolm X. The march was called after Chicago cops brutalized another Black youth, Jeremiah Mearday, a second time on March 19. Two cops had been fired just one week earlier for beating Mearday last fall, smashing his front teeth down his throat with a police flashlight.
The rally was called by the Greater Chicago Committee Against Police Brutality. Organizers brought thousands leaflets to the rally for activists to take and build the downtown march. They also had printed a button with a picture of Malcolm X reading "May 19. March Against Police Brutality."
Rev. Joseph Napier, who chaired the rally and is serving as coordinator of the march, announced that a number of the churches building the demonstration were making buses available for any group that needed them to get people downtown on May 19.
Vanessa Laurence told the rally that she and her family would be at the march to keep the fight for justice for the death of Joseph Winfield going.
Committee leaders also announced plans for a series of continuing actions to build toward the May 19 rally. Three more church rallies are planned, one in a Puerto Rican neighborhood and two in the Black community, one on Chicago's south side and one on the west side. In addition, one of the groups endorsing the march, Justice is Blind/Mothers Against Injustice, organized a march on two Chicago police stations on Mothers Day to protest racism and brutality at the hands of the cops and the courts.
Others who spoke at the church rally were U.S. congressmen Robert Rush and Daniel Davis; Rev. Al Sharpton from New York; committee chair Rev. Paul Jakes Jr.; Bob Lucas, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization; and several victims of police assault. Opponents of police brutality are urged to gather at 12 noon on May 19 in Chicago's Federal Plaza at Dearborn and Adams in the loop.
John Studer is a member of United Steelworkers of America
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