Dozens Arrested at Police Chiefs Meeting in Chicago

Dozens Arrested at Police Chiefs Meeting in Chicago

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Sixty-six people were arrested outside the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in Chicago on Saturday. Hundreds took part in the protest, which occurred outside the conference where thousands of officers from across the US gathered. Activist groups organized the protest to bring attention to Chicago’s long history of police violence towards African-Americans and to call for city funds to be shifted from policing into investment in social programs.

Protesters locked arms with PVC pipes at multiple intersections around the conference and shut them down. As a result, traffic around the conference was blocked for more than two hours. One group of protesters managed to block a skyway leading to the convention, essentially shutting down this entrance.

The protest gained national attention on Twitter with the #StopTheCops trending 3rd in the US during the protest’s height.

In one memorable moment from the protest, an activist scaled a flagpole outside the conference center and pulled down an American flag. In its place, the activist placed one that read, “Unapologetically Black”. The protesters erupted in cheers as the flag waved in Saturday’s strong winds. The activist was arrested immediately after descending the flagpole, and police labeled the area a “crime scene” forcing protesters away from the building.

As the officers folded the American flag up they reminded one another not to let it touch the ground. An act which drew sneers from protesters, who commented the officers seemed to care more about the flag than the countless Black men and women who suffer daily at the hands of the police.

Activist organizations BYP100, We Charge Genocide, Assata’s Daughters, Black Out Pride, which are just a few of the organizations that organized the protest, released a statement calling for a Federal jobs program, living wages, and an end to discrimination against people of color at work.

In a separate statement the one of the protest organizers explained why the IACP conferenced was targeted for the protest, “Our basic human rights are being violated every day by the police. Black men and women are being harassed, assaulted and even murdered by police. And as the heads of police departments I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the IACP.”

BYP100 released a statement condemning the conference for its focus on police polices and technologies, which will be used against marginalized communities across the US.

“Black folks who are poor, women, formerly incarcerated, working class, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming, differently abled, and/or undocumented are particularly vulnerable to police violence and hyper-surveillance.”

Other organizers of the event also weighed in on why the conference was being protested.

“The IACP also actively advocates for laws that continue to criminalize our communities. The IACP continues to support the senseless War on Black people, also known as the War on Drugs, by opposing any and all efforts to legalize or decriminalize drugs by local, state and the federal government. They continue to advocate for the distribution of military equipment by the Department of Defense to local police departments throughout the country.”

The IACP describes itself as conference discussing cutting edge policing technologies and techniques. This journalist reviewed a copy of the IACP conference schedule and found a number of controversial issues slated for discussion.

One of these topics is police use of “heat lists”, which are lists of individuals the police departments believe are most likely to commit a crime based on historical crime information, disturbance calls, and suspicious person reports. The lists are also based on social network analysis. The ACLU has criticized the use of the lists as “guilt by association”.

As of 2013 the Chicago police had over 400 names on its “heat list.”

A number of controversial companies are sponsoring this year’s IACP. One of them is Taser, the maker of the “non-lethal” weapon, which police have used to kill 43 people this year. Other sponsors include the weapons manufacturer General Dynamics, and Harris, the manufacturer of “Sting Ray” devices, which collect information from cell phone users.

Police use of the so-called “Sting Ray” devices has been something of an open secret for years. Police departments have signed non-disclosure agreements with the FBI regarding their use and as a result much information about their use remains unknown.

The Department of Justice ruled recently that Federal agencies would be required to obtain warrants to use “Sting Ray” devices, however large loopholes remain, and the requirement doesn’t apply to local law enforcement agencies.

Obama is scheduled to speak at the conference later this week. His speech at the IACP follows comments he made to law enforcement officials last week defending the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, Obama’s Attorney general seems to be showing less support. Loretta Lynch recently made a statement that she did not believe police departments should be required to document the number of people killed by police. According to the Guardian, that number currently stands at 931 for this year. Of these 931 people killed by police, 228 were identified as Black, and 143 as Hispanic/Latino.

Below are Paul’s tweets from the event:

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