Black Lives Matter claims police brutality against peaceful protesters

Black Lives Matter claims police brutality against peaceful protesters

Law enforcement officers unleashes a stream of pepper spray at protesters on State Street near Lake Street in the Loop during a protest over the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown respond to allegations by urging those who believe they’ve been mistreated to file complaints. “We don’t tolerate police misconduct—ever. Period,” the mayor said.

Black Lives Matter on Monday demanded an end to Chicago Police “attacks” on people protesting the death of George Floyd.

The group also called for the release of any protesters who’d been arrested, citing one prominent activist and poet, Malcolm London, by name.

But at a news conference Monday morning, CPD Supt. David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot had insisted abuse by officers will not be allowed.

“We don’t tolerate police misconduct — ever. Period. I think I’ve been very clear on that throughout the course of my career. We don’t tolerate it,” said Lightfoot, a former Police Board president who served during the Daley administration as head of the Chicago Police Department Office of Professional Standards.

“If people believe that police have engaged in misconduct, they need to call 311 and file a complaint. And those complaints will be investigated vigorously. This is not a time when we’re bending the rules around police reform and accountability.”

Brown said officers have been professional and patient during one of the most gut-wrenching weekends in Chicago history. For the most part, they exercised “smart policing” that “set the right tone.”

Officers were in riot gear, but Lightfoot denied it sent a provocative message to protesters.

The officers “wore the equipment they needed to meet the challenge that was out there and will continue to do so,” the mayor said.

“There are people out there that are actively trying to provoke them into doing something. Having that protective gear gives them the security that they need when a bottle is hurled at them,” Lightfoot said, or when protesters wield “a hammer or a shovel or a bat or a metal pipe, as what we saw, or a gun.”

But later Monday, outside the 2nd District police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue, Amika Tendaji, an organizer for Black Lives Matter, talked about an otherwise “peaceful protest” Sunday at 53rd and Lake Park that turned violent after police “began fighting” protesters who “held the line and pushed them back.”

London was arrested even though he “never even came close” to the spot where protesters clashed with police, Tendaji said.

A video of the encounter captured by ABC7 Chicago and shared by Black Lives Matter Chicago on Twitter shows London, dressed in a yellow hooded sweatshirt, being chased into the street and surrounded by several Chicago Police officers who beat him with their night sticks.

“They saw Malcolm, chased Malcolm — probably because Malcolm is dark-skinned and has locs — chased Malcolm and just began pounding on him with sticks, with them batons,” Tendaji said.

Others tried to intervene to help London, Tendaji said, adding that one ended up in the hospital with a concussion.

“I got slammed to the ground, we all got bruised up,” Tendaji said.

“And so we need everybody to understand: it doesn’t f—ing matter if you peacefully protest or you burn s–t down,” she added, because police are “not gonna be peaceful either way.”

Damon Williams, arrested along with London Sunday, said he was “slammed directly on my head” during the confrontation. Williams was released after spending “about seven hours” in police custody.

“And before detaining me, officers put the whole weight of their body of their knee on my neck,” Williams said.

“So the same thing that killed George Floyd happened to me [Sunday]. So, while we are protesting the tactics that they have, they use that to respond.”

Sun-Times reporter Sam Kelly contributed to this story.

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