CHICAGO — More than 1,000 people marched through the streets of the mostly Latino neighborhood of Little Village here April 18 to protest the police killing of Adam Toledo. The action began next to the alley where the 13 year old was shot by Chicago police officer Eric Stillman in the early hours of March 29. Protests have grown since the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, under growing pressure, released videos of the shooting.
Police had repeatedly asserted that Toledo was killed in an “armed confrontation.” The video from Stillman’s body camera shows him chasing Toledo down the alley yelling, “Hands! Hands! Show me your f—ing hands!” and then, “Drop it.” The youth stops, appears to toss a gun away, and then turns toward the officer while raising his empty hands. Stillman shoots him in the chest.
City officials have tried to deflect blame from the cops. “An adult put a gun in a child’s hand,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the press. “A weapon that could and did irreparably change the course of his life.” Police arrested Ruben Roman, 21, whom they say was with Toledo and fired a gun several times just before the police pursuit began. He is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and endangerment of a child.
At first city officials refused to release videos of the shooting. But under pressure from the teen’s family, and protests, they allowed the family to see them April 13 and released the material publicly two days later.
“We appreciate the community support and are grateful that events so far have remained peaceful,” said a statement from Toledo’s family prior to the video going public. They asked protesters to “remain peaceful to honor Adam’s memory and work constructively to promote reform.” Overwhelmingly that is what has happened.
The largest protests so far were an April 16 rally and march of over 1,000 in the Logan Square neighborhood, where Mayor Lightfoot lives, and the Little Village march two days later.
“It’s important for the protests to be peaceful,” Vicente Guadalupe, 27, who lives in Little Village, told Ilona Gersh of the Socialist Workers Party as they marched April 18. The downtown stores were boarded up “to scare people away from participating in peaceful marches like this one,” he said. “If people are afraid there will be violence, they won’t bring their families and kids. Look at all the kids here!”
Gersh showed him a photo in the Militant of a truck brought by Teamsters Local 120, the union of 200 locked-out workers at Marathon Petroleum, to a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, demanding the cop who killed Daunte Wright be charged and prosecuted.
“That’s what we need here, too,” she said. “A broad and united response that’s disciplined and reaches out for popular support from churches, community groups and people of all nationalities. Because this is not just a problem for African Americans and Latinos.”
Maria Moreno, who works in a laundry and is also a school crossing guard, came with her 13-year-old daughter and younger son. “I told my four children that they have to stay home after dark. The cops regularly chase children through our streets,” said Moreno. “I pray my son will grow up to be 13.”
“The immediate response was important,” Gersh told her.
“Now we have to keep it up,” said Moreno. “I’m impressed by the number of Blacks, Asians, and whites who came out today. That’s important. There’s a rainbow of support.”