Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chicago Justice: Connecting the Dots

Wednesday was a day of juxtapositions. It was a day where I saw incredible courage, incredible thinking, and incredible sadness.

At 1:30, I was in Daley Plaza as the parents of Flint Farmer, a young man killed by a Chicago police officer, held a press conference demanding that State's Attorney Anita Alvarez prosecute the shooter for murder. Farmer was shot in the back three times as he lay face down on the ground. Video from a police car dash cam caught the flashes from the shots.

Surprisingly, major media in Chicago turned out to cover the event. All the cameras and microphones and reporters made an impression on me - their appearance suggested to me that it does make a difference to take a stand for justice. And maybe the fact that some of us thought this was important enough to come out, hold signs, chant, and march, helped back up that message.

My mind reeled as I watched Emmett Farmer, Flint's father, dealing with the press. What courage it must take to suppress the pain of losing one's son in order to do the work that it takes to get justice!

At 3 o'clock, I was at LaSalle and Jackson, where Occupy Chicago held a teach-in on "How Are Prisoners Part of the 99%?" The focus was the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) -- "the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to what are, in actuality, economic, social, and political problems."

Participants each studied a specific demand by advocates for prisoners and ex-prisoners, and then engaged in conversation to understand each other's demands. Learning happened.

A major source of information was Critical Resistance - a national grassroots organization committed to ending society's use of prisons and policing as an answer to social problems.

A key take-away for me was that groups of people who have formerly been isolated and suffered persecution in isolation -- people of color, immigrants, LGBT, women, the young, the old -- are recognizing that they can fight persecution and injustice together. Overcoming the divide takes work, and at Occupy Chicago you can see people doing that work before your eyes.

At 5:30 I was back up at Daley Plaza, this time in a service at the Chicago Temple as part of "Urban Dolorosa" - Healing Youth Violence in the Sorrowing City - a series of prayer vigils to try to address the problem of Chicago youth who have died in recent years in neighborhood violence.

It was painful to sit still as name after name after name of Chicago youth who have died in neighborhood violence was solemnly read. And it was moving to hear the chorus swell over and over with this refrain:

Pour out your heart like water
For the lives of your children
Let justice roll down like waters
Righteousness like an ever flowing stream

Most of all, it was eerie to participate in a candlelight procession back out onto Daley Plaza, where I had begun the day. I was struck by the disconnect between the two groups that gathered in Daley Plaza that day: one was massive, well-dressed, polite, and deeply meditative; one was sparse, scraggly, insistent, and angry. One found hope in the exposure of unfairness, the assertion of justice, and the active pursuit of a truly changed world; the other found hope in the bonds of community, in the healing power of art, and of prayer, and in the assertion of the will to just go on living. Between the two events at which these two disparate groups assembled was the educational event, at which a third group -- a group of seekers -- tried to understand the root causes of the breakdown in our justice system.

What will it take to bring these groups -- and aims, and means -- together?

Related posts

In the city where I live, "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" has been given a brutal construction by the power structure:

Police encounter black man on street
Police shoot black man
Black man dies
(Business as usual in Chicago.)

(See We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED.)

What would Christians think if someone proposed carving out a slice of their Sunday services to worship the God of Entombment? Wouldn't they think that was absurd? After all, if Christianity is anything, isn't it the religion of "UN-entombment"?

(See When is Christianity Going Back to Being the Religion of "UN-entombment"?)

A large number of people are marked for exclusion and deprivation -- and worse -- because they have characteristics that are susceptible to the whole apparatus of power:  they are easily recognizable as  NOT "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" . . . under the gaze of surveillance this condition is recorded and propagated . . . for perpetual recording and processing within the data centers of power . . . accompanied by intermittent acts of physical and cultural injury -- random, senseless -- to reinforce their unshakeable status. 

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color)