In the immediate aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray, local activists, including University of Chicago students, participated in a Tuesday protest to express solidarity in opposing police brutality and racism.
Gray, a 25-year-old black Baltimore man, died on April 19 after suffering spinal cord injuries while in police custody for alleged possession of a switchblade. As reported by The New York Times, the incident has sparked ongoing protests and riots in Baltimore that have often turned violent, as rioters destroyed 15 buildings on Monday alone. On Tuesday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Baltimore, and deployed the National Guard in an attempt to quell the riots.
Later that day, a marching line of protesting Chicagoans made its way south from the Chicago Police Department Headquarters at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, and stopped in Hyde Park, eventually concluding at the CTA Green Line station at the intersection of East 63rd Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue. According to second-year Alex DiLalla, who participated in the protest, a Chicago Police blockade prevented the marchers from continuing south on South Cottage Grove Avenue past East 63rd Street, although he said that police conduct was “calm and collected,” and that the police did not attempt to disperse the march.
UIC student Malcolm London organized the protest, titled “Emergency Action in Solidarity w/ Baltimore!!” through Facebook, and drew at least 300 marchers. DiLalla said that he first learned of the event through social media as it was occurring, and joined the march when it reached the intersection of East 55th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue. He also said that he went to the protest in order to condemn police brutality and express solidarity with the marchers.
“I have friends on campus who have been racially profiled by the police, and I think it could lead to something deadlier, even though racial profiling is a crime, both against morality and the law…. It was said best by the people in the middle of the Midway—that ‘black youth will save black youth,’ so I came tonight to stand in support,” DiLalla said.
Marcus Davidson, a protester at the rally and former Englewood resident said that he was dissatisfied with how the Baltimore rioters have been portrayed by the media and public officials. Early in the week, both Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and President Obama referred to the rioters as “thugs,” which critics, such as Robinson, claim is a racially charged term. As reported by fourth-year Marina Fang for the Huffington Post, Rawlings-Blake has since issued a public apology.
“I’m mad about what the mayor in Baltimore said about the rioters; they are not thugs. I am kind of mad at what Obama said; they are not criminals. They are just fed-up youth who have been screaming ‘no justice, no peace, no racist police,’ and nobody has heard them peacefully, so they acted out violently. I’m afraid the same thing is going to happen in this city if people don’t start listening,” Davidson said.
– Additional reporting by Stephen Moreland