A Case For Reparations At The University Of Chicago

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By Guest Poster for Black Perspectives – Julia Leakes yearned to be reunited with her family. In 1853, her two sisters showed up for sale along with her thirteen nieces and nephews in Lawrence County, Mississippi. Julia used all the political capital an enslaved woman could muster to negotiate the sale of her loved ones to her owner, Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas’s semi-literate white plantation manager told him “[y]our negros begs for you to b[u]y them.” Despite assurances that this would “be a good arrangement,” Douglas refused to shuffle any of his 140+ slaves to reunite this separated slave family. Instead, Julia’s siblings, nieces, and nephews were put on the auction block where they vanished from the historical record.1 Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse for Julia. By 1859, she had a 1 in 3 chance of being worked to death under Douglas’s new overseer in Washington County, Mississippi. Douglas’s mistreatment of his slaves became notorious. According to one report, slaves on the Douglas plantation were kept “not half fed and clothed.”2 In another, Dr. Dan Brainard from Rush Medical College stated that Douglas’s slaves were subjected to “inhuman and disgraceful treatment” deemed so abhorrent that even other slaveholders in Mississippi branded Douglas “a disgrace to all slave-holders and the system that they support.”3

Lawsuit, Citing ‘Thin Blue Line,’ Seeks Federal Court Oversight Of CPD

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By Jon Seidel, Fran Spielman and Mitch Dudek for Chicago Sun Times – Accusing Mayor Rahm Emanuel of trying to cut a “back-room deal” with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, lawyers for Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday seeking federal oversight of the city’s police department. The 132-page complaint immediately blew up the debate over police reform in Chicago. It may force City Hall to the negotiating table after the mayor tried to abandon the idea of a federal monitor. Or, it may lead to a lengthy court battle. Six individuals and seven community groups are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of people who “have been, or in the future will be, subjected to use of force by the CPD.” It also targets 15 police officers, as well as the city. “CPD officers abide by an ingrained code of silence and ‘warrior mentality’ wholly disconnected from the policies that exist on the books,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote in the complaint. “The ‘thin blue line’ reigns supreme. The city of Chicago has proven time and time again that it is incapable of ending its own regime of terror, brutality and discriminatory policing.”

New Study Finds “More Sweatshops Than Starbucks” In Chicago

The study found that the most common kinds of retaliation were getting fired, having hours cut, or, in the case of temp workers, being placed on a temp agency’s “Do Not Return” list—a form of blacklisting. Employers also retaliated by threatening to call police or immigration authorities, and sometimes even resorted to physical violence. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Jeff Schuhrke for In These Times – The report, Challenging the Business of Fear, was prepared by Raise the Floor Alliance, which is a coalition of Chicago worker centers, and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). Surveys and interviews were conducted with nearly 300 Chicago-area workers from a variety of low-wage industries, including warehousing, manufacturing, food service and retail. The study finds that among employees who dared to speak up about workplace injustices like unsafe conditions, wage theft, injuries, sexual harassment and discrimination, 58 percent experienced retaliation. Of workers who reported legal violations to regulatory agencies like the Illinois Department of Labor, Department of Human Rights, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over 80 percent said their employer retaliated against them. Sophia Zaman, executive director of Raise the Floor Alliance, said at a press conference Thursday that retaliation has become “so normalized, it’s basically a way of doing business.” “Three quarters of our participants reported two or more violations of their legal rights in their current job. This is the definition of a sweatshop,” said Brittany Scott, senior research strategist at NESRI.

Oscar López Rivera Returns Home To Chicago – And To A Movement

By Max Herman

By Asraa Mustufa Asraa Mustufa for The Chicago Reporter – Earlier this year, former President Barack Obama commuted the sentence for Oscar López Rivera, who served 35 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and charges related to his work with the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacionala (FALN). The militant Puerto Rican independence group claimed responsibility for a series of bombings beginning in the 1970s that resulted in five deaths. López Rivera’s supporters argue that prosecutors presented no evidence linking him to any FALN act that resulted in casualties. On Thursday, López Rivera returned to his home neighborhood of Humboldt Park. In 1967, after serving in the Vietnam War, he became an organizer in the community, where he led a campaign to create Roberto Clemente High School and open an alternative school for Puerto Rican dropouts. He also co-founded El Rincon health services for drug addicts and helped establish a local office of ASPIRA, which supports the educational and leadership development of Latino youth.

11 Ways Chicago Is The Beating Heart Of The Disastrous Charter School Agenda

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

By Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet – Chicago’s public school system has become a showcase for the negative effects of K-12 privatization, according to a new report that tracks how the city replaced struggling local schools with dozens of charters that didn’t perform better, yet deprived traditional schools of funds, students and public accountability. The report, “Closed by Choice: The Spatial Relationship between Charter School Expansion, School Closures and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools,” tracks 108 charter schools that opened between 2000 and 2015, a period when Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was shutting struggling schools, cutting district funding and reducing staff. It details and confirms what many charter critics have long said, that lobbying from pro-privatization forces swayed the city’ political leaders to impose top-down reforms that riled neighborhoods, undermined traditional K-12 schools, increased segregation and did not lead to schools with better academic results. Perhaps most insidiously, the report describes in great detail how the CPS system aggressively shut down struggling schools in neighborhoods where student numbers were dwindling, while allowing better-funded charters to open up nearby…

Sorry, Charter Boosters: Record Numbers Of Teachers At Chicago Charter Schools Are Organizing Unions

Teachers at the ASPIRA charter school network rally on March 9 during union contract negotiations with management. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

By Micah Uetright for In These Times – It’s a delicious irony for teachers unions that Rauner College Prep—a Chicago charter school named after Bruce Rauner, Illinois’ virulently anti-union governor—may soon have a union. On March 3, the Chicago Association of Charter Teachers and Staff (ACTS) announced an organizing drive at the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which has 18 campuses across Chicago, including Rauner College Prep. If the campaign is successful, Noble will become the nation’s largest unionized charter network. The addition of Noble’s 800 teachers and staff to its ranks would also give ACTS, a local of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an impressive density in Chicago’s charter market—the union says it would represent as many as 40 percent of charter teachers in Chicago. About 10 percent of charter teachers nationwide are unionized, according to the pro-charter Center for Education Reform. The Chicago Teachers Union, a sister local to ACTS, has been a bright spot in a bleak labor landscape. But traditional public school educators aren’t the only ones on the move.

How Chicago Became First City To Make Reparations To Victims Of Police Violence

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By Yana Kunichoff for Yes! Magazine – He was among the first of at least 120 young, primarily Black men whom Chicago police officers would torture into false confessions. Yet while many who suffer at the hands of the police never get justice, Smith’s story ended differently. More than 40 years later, following the passage of historic reparations legislation, he became one of the first Black people in America to be granted reparations for racial violence. After receiving parole, Smith moved out of the city and attempted to rebuild his life. But his struggles were far from over. Given the conviction on his record, Smith faced difficulty in everything from finding work to accessing his car insurance benefits. He remained haunted by his experiences as a teen inside the interrogation room and never felt at ease in Chicago again—until May 6, 2015.

New Charges In Laquan McDonald Shooting Case

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By Andy Grimm for Chicago Sun Times – Prosecutors on Thursday tacked on 16 new counts to the first-degree murder charges against Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting of Laquan McDonald. A new indictment handed up by a grand jury last week adds the 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, apparently one for each shot Van Dyke fired at McDonald, special prosecutor Joseph McMahon said in a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. The new indictment, returned on March 16, still includes the six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct that were charged in November 2015, when the case was being handled by former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Ignoring Chicago, Toronto Has A Big, Stupid Idea

Popular Resistance, Revolution, Rebellion, Capitalism

By Joyce Nelson for Counter Punch – Last weekend, the good folks of Toronto, Ontario learned that their elected officials at City Hall are considering selling off the Toronto Parking Authority – which operates dozens of municipal parking lots as well as on-street parking. It’s a big, stupid idea that indicates our “city fathers” apparently don’t read, but also that they can’t see through the latest scam being sold by some corporate lobbyist. It’s as though the Innocents in Toronto City Hall have never heard of the parking meter scandal that ate Chicago and has become an unmitigated disaster – even though more press has likely been given to that fiasco than to any other public-private partnership (P3) undertaken in recent U.S. history.

Signs Of Sisterhood: Inside The Women’s March In Chicago

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By Joan Brunwasser for Op Ed News – Yael Brunwasser: It was important for me to stand in solidarity with women all over the country (and world!) who refuse to be plunged back in time with our rights revoked. Trump has been so blatantly disrespectful and misogynistic, it’s appalling. It was incredibly empowering to be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of marchers in Chicago who stand for equality and human rights. The march was started by women, but came to represent all minorities and discriminated groups that Trump has targeted with hateful rhetoric. This is what democracy is about and it was truly energizing to take that power back and express our frustrations and demands of this new administration.

Chicago Police Assaulted Children, Got Away With Murders: DOJ Report Echoes What Residents Have Long Known

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By Sarah Lazare for AlterNet – In a September 2014 report prepared for the United Nations Committee Against Torture, a grassroots effort called We Charge Genocide documented that, “Young people of color in communities across Chicago are consistently profiled, targeted, harassed, and subjected to excessive force by the (predominantly white) [Chicago Police Department]—leaving far too many physically injured, killed, and emotionally scarred.” The investigation, led by directly impacted Chicago residents, determined that between 2009 and 2011, 92 percent of all CPD Taser uses targeted black or Latino people. Black residents are 10 times more likely to be shot by the CPD than their white counterparts, the probe found…

At Birthplace Of Auto Workers’ Sit-Down Strikes

Workers have twice voted no on Honeywell's proposals to eliminate cost-of-living increases and retiree health care, freeze pensions, curtail overtime pay, subcontract work, and void seniority rights. Photo: UAW

By Dianne Feeley for Labor Notes – Last week auto workers from Chicago and Detroit made a pilgrimage to the birthplace of auto workers’ sit-down strikes to lend solidarity to workers who’ve been locked out for eight months and counting. Honeywell locked out 320 aerospace workers with Auto Workers (UAW) Local 9 in South Bend, Indiana, on May 9 after they voted 270-30 to reject the company’s offer. Another 40 Honeywell workers with Local 1508 at in Green Island, New York, are also locked out. Honeywell was demanding the power to change health care premiums and deductibles unilaterally. The rejected proposal would also have eliminated cost-of-living increases and retiree health care…

Chicago Police Routinely, 'Systemically' Abused Civil Rights: DOJ

The investigation was launched after the fatal police shooting of black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Photo: niXerKG/flickr/cc)

By Nadia Prupis for Common Dreams – Chicago police systematically violated people’s civil rights by routinely using excessive force, particularly against African-Americans and Latinos, according to a bombshell report (pdf) from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released Friday. The report is the conclusion of a 13-month investigation into the Chicago Police Department (CPD), launched after the October 2014 police killing of 17-year-old black Chicago resident Laquan McDonald, whose fatal shooting was captured by the patrol car’s dashboard camera. According to the inquiry, police routinely violated the Fourth Amendment by using “unnecessary and avoidable” force, including deadly force, which investigators attributed to poor training and accountability systems.

Racial Segregation Still At Heart Of Chicago’s Ills…And America’s Too

30 November 1991: Barack Obama, then a young social activist, speaks to local youths in the South Side of Chicago about ‘Project Vote’. Photograph: Polaris / eyevine

By Natalie Y Moore for The Guardian – In a couple of days, President Barack Obama will give a farewell speech in his adopted hometown of Chicago. This is the city to which he moved as a young man in the 1980s, to work asacommunityorganiser, inspired by Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor. Chicago is also where Obama met his wife, Michelle, a native of the city, had two daughters and launched a dazzling political career. Obama’s swan song will take place a touch north of Bronzeville, the South Side neighbourhood historically known as the “Black Belt”. When African Americans left the south in droves a century ago as part of the great migration, this is where they landed if Chicago was the final destination.

Lessons From Republic Windows Workers’ Sit-In, Eight Years On

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By Curtis Black for The Chicago Reporter – On a frigid evening near the close of 2016, while going to a meeting at Goose Island, I was a bit startled to recall another frigid gathering there eight years earlier. In 2008, Barack Obama was president-elect, the economy was collapsing, and the workers at Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory to protest its sudden shutdown. You stepped inside the building and saw the very serious faces of blue-collar workers, mainly black and Latino, who had taken a very serious step at great personal risk in order to take back some control over their future—and perhaps set an example for the rest of us.