In the wake of the non-indictment of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announced several new initiatives Wednesday to combat police brutality in Chicago, including a community-member review board and new SCLC Chicago office.
The historic civil rights organization, founded by Martin Luther King Jr., plans to work with city officials to bring changes to the review board. A meeting with city officials is scheduled for Dec. 10.
“Civic boards are going to be very critical to our civil rights strategy,” said the Rev. Gregg Greer of SCLC.
“Whenever an incident happens we want to know that the cultures represented on those panels are sincerely interested in justice. We want to make sure communities have a voice when it comes to these issues. Not a panel that is chosen by secret methods, but an actual panel that the community is involved in, in order to affect a resolution,” Greer said.
The Police Department faced criticism for its use of excessive force when a young black woman, Rekia Boyd, was shot in the head and killed in 2012. Dante Servin, the officer involved in the shooting, is the first Chicago police officer in 17 years to face criminal charges in a shooting death. His court date has been set for Jan. 21, according to published reports.
“We’ve had so many instances of excessive force and police brutality right here in Chicago. We’re hoping to see justice served. We have to work as a team to organize and deal with police brutality. If we don’t deal with it now, it’s going to continue to happen,” said Tio Hardiman, a civil rights activist and former executive director of Cease Fire.
The SCLC plans to open a new Chicago office next Spring. Greer said a new office in Chicago is necessary due to amount of violence in the city.
SCLC, in partnership with members of the National Bar Association, Cornel West, emeritus professor of Princeton University, and Hardiman, also called for the continuation of a national economic boycott targeting major corporations such as Target and Walmart. The campaign, which began with a boycott of Black Friday, is meant to show the power of the community. Advocates hope the economic impact of a boycott can provoke policy change, according to Greer.
In addition, the coalition has called for the resignation of Robert McCulloch, prosecutor in the Michael Brown case in Missouri. A grand jury decided last week not to indict Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. Protests and civil unrest have affected cities nationwide since the announcement.
“We want to look for peaceful means to resolve our situation,” said Greer. “Officially leaders of our campaign do not recognize this ruling as legitimate. This coalition is obligated to issue a vote of no confidence into the service, record and judgment of public official Robert McCulloch. We would ask that he would resign his post. In the meantime our public campaigns will continue.”
Hardiman announced a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller St., to discuss police brutality in Chicago.