Outrage over the murder of George Floyd by police has sparked activists in Chicago to demand that police officers be removed from Chicago Public Schools. Young people are urging the district to nullify the $33 million contract it entered into with the Chicago Police Department in August to station officers in CPS buildings.
Approximately a thousand teachers, parents, and students attended a North Side rally and march Thursday evening. A few hundred protestors later gathered outside the Zenos Colman Elementary school where youth activists spoke about police presence in schools making them feel unsafe. Student groups have also collected more than 20,000 signatures on an online petition calling for the removal.
After years of fighting to have the police removed, student activists said they believe now is the time for it to happen.
“We have all these beautiful people fighting against this cause right now,” Alicia Kamil, a student at King High School, said to the crowd. “We have the numbers, we have the energy, we have the spirit, we have the passion to do it so they finna listen to us.”
Chicagoans have taken to the streets in large numbers to protest police violence every night the last week. Protests have raged across the country to demand justice for George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The call to remove the police from Chicago schools has come on the tail end of the announcement that the Minneapolis Board of Education and the Minneapolis Parks Department are ending their contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department. The Minneapolis City Council also announced Thursday that they would be holding an emergency meeting to consider disbanding the police entirely.
Minneapolis was previously undergoing a lauded three-year program meant to increase trust between police and community members and decrease police violence. Many activists believe that these reforms were not enough. The rallying cry of #DefundThePolice has gone viral on social media.
Other cities have responded similarly to protestors’ demands. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti canceled this year’s slotted budget increase for the Los Angeles Police Department. The New York City Council voted to cut the New York Police Department’s $6 billion by $1 billion in the next year. The cities of Dallas, Philadelphia, and Nashville, among others, are all considering similar moves.
Activists have argued that defunding the police and instead investing in social services will strengthen and protect communities. Protestors in Chicago cited the same concerns.
“The city of Chicago should be investing that money… in our communities. They should be investing that money in after-school programs and mental health resources,” high school senior Diego Garcia, 18, told the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t need more cops. At the end of the day, we are just being set up for the school-to-prison pipeline.”
In a statement Thursday, Chicago Public School officials said that they value the “feedback” but made no commitment to reconsidering their contract with the Chicago Police Department.
Sources: WBEZ 6/5/2020; Chicago Tribune 6/4/2020; WBEZ 6/2/2020