Dear Garry McCarthy…

A protestor at Damo Day hangs a loom made by an elementary school student outside the Walgreens where police began their chase of Dominique Franklin last year. The loom's imagery represents life and community overcoming state violence. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
A protestor at Damo Day hangs a loom made by an elementary school student outside the Walgreens where police began their chase of Dominique Franklin last year. The loom’s imagery represents life and community overcoming state violence. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

Today, Chicago’s top cop announced the commencement of his “listening tour” – a project inspired by events in Ferguson and Baltimore, that will involve McCarthy and his rank and file “asking what they are doing wrong, and what they can do better.” The idea of Chicago’s chronically abusive and largely inept police organizing an effort of this kind would be laughable if the issues involved weren’t so pressing, painful, and potentially deadly.

For starters, there’s no need. “Listening” is a skill that McCarthy and his people could have answered all of their questions with long before tensions boiled over in Baltimore. They have been presented with reports, they have been witness to speak outs led by community members, they have watched this city’s youth challenge them with words and imagery, and they have heard the families and the afflicted cry out for justice. I know this, because I see them at every single event, lined up against us, sometimes laughing, sometimes taking our pictures, sometimes swearing and snatching our fellow protestors – but always surveilling. They have heard our complaints. In detail. Paying attention is part of the police culture in Chicago. Sadly, giving a fuck is not.

But since McCarthy wants to play dumb, I’ll bite.

Dear Garry McCarthy,

I heard about your listening tour, and as it happens, I was just sifting through my photos from yesterday’s Damo Day protest. While a series of photos from that event isn’t exactly a verbal explanation of the ways your officers routinely let us down, you could learn a lot, if you cared to, from the young people in these photos, and what they are modeling in their communities.  This beautiful event, organized by the friends of a young man your officers murdered, captures a lot of what you’ll need to get right with if you expect a different attitude from those who have no reason to trust you and your gang.

As the leader of the most dangerous gang in Chicago – one that has shot more than 1,600 people since 1985, and that kills with impunity – you’ll have to understand that we take your public gestures with a grain of salt. We know that regardless of your speeches, young people of color will be harassed on our city streets today. Some will wind up in jail over nothing, some will have their lives ruined, and some may even be killed. And regardless of any complaint or evidence, you will support your officers.

Your gang is predictable.

We know your colors and your lingo and your protocols. We know exactly what to expect when your people roll through to enforce the social norms that comfort and benefit some, at the steady expense of others. We know you, and let’s be real – you know us too. You’ve watched as our young people have staged events highlighting the harms done by your police, and you are doubtlessly aware that when your officers killed Dominique Franklin, his friends built a case against your entire department, and took it all the way to the UN.

Were you listening when the UN Committee Against Torture agreed with those young people, and demanded that your police department address its ongoing human rights violations?

In any case, here’s a quick glimpse at what you’re currently feigning ignorance about, Mr. McCarthy. And here’s hoping the city doesn’t spend a fortune on your “listening tour” when it already spends far too much on your militant displays at nearly every protest organized by those who oppose your brutality.

Damo's friends and supporters of We Charge Genocide gather outside the Walgreens where Damo ran from police, just before being tased to death for stealing a bottle of liquor. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
Damo’s friends and supporters of We Charge Genocide gather outside the Walgreens where Damo ran from police, just before being tased to death for stealing a bottle of liquor. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
Protestor Brit Schulte recounts the story of Rekia Boyd, whose acquitted killer, detective Dante Servin, was recently defended by Garry McCarthy. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
Protestor Brit Schulte recounts the story of Rekia Boyd, whose acquitted killer, detective Dante Servin, was recently defended by Garry McCarthy. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
Damo's friends comfort each other as they tell stories about what he meant to them - including a narrative about how Damo (not the police) once saved a group of friends from being mugged. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
Damo’s friends comfort each other as they tell stories about what he meant to them – including a narrative about how Damo (not the police) once saved a group of friends from being mugged. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
The community memorializes Damo at the spot where he fell after being fatally tased by police. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
The community memorializes Damo at the spot where he fell after being fatally tased by police. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
(Photo: Kelly Hayes)
Damo's father to the crowd, in the wake of a senseless arrest:
Damo’s father to the crowd, in the wake of a senseless arrest: “We have a right to be here. We have a right to be treated like human beings.” (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

Note: Some of Superintendent McCarthy’s listeners were in attendance yesterday. Their contributions included a senseless arrest and one officer describing the memorial event as “pretentious.” I’m pretty sure “pretentious” is the kindest thing I’ve ever been called by a police officer, so perhaps that’s progress.

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