UPDATE ON ARRESTS AND CHARGES IN CHICAGO BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTS: Joint statement from NLG-Chicago Mass Defense Committee and Chicago Community Bond Fund

 In General

As they have in cities across the country, people in Chicago have taken to the streets over the last several days to demand justice for Black communities terrorized by police violence. This wave of action was sparked by demonstrations following the police murders of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Right now there are many different versions of what has happened in the last 24 hours in Chicago, but one thing is clear: The Chicago Police rioted. Police violently attacked hundreds if not thousands of people demanding an end to police violence. This response was unacceptable and unnecessary.

NLG and CCBF have been working with organizers to provide legal support for protesters in the form of Legal Observers, operating a legal support hotline, and coordinating with jail support teams. We are doing our best to track people in custody and ensure they are supported and safely released. Jail support teams and reports from people arrested confirm that, at a minimum, several hundred people were in police custody overnight.

Right now there are very different numbers of arrests being estimated, from 240 to over 1,000. It is important to understand there are two ways to understand what an arrest is. An arrest occurs when police detain someone and they are unable to leave. The term “arrest” is sometimes only used to describe when someone is  “processed,” meaning fingerprinted and charged. This second definition excludes people who were detained on the street and excludes people who were taken into police custody for hours—if they were then released without charges. These different definitions may account for some of the discrepancy in estimated number of arrests. We may never know an exact number, but what has been made clear is that hundreds of people throughout Chicago have had extremely negative interactions with police throughout the duration of the protests over the past few days.

There were rampant examples of violence by Chicago Police, including striking protestors in the head with batons, use of pepper spray, and driving police vehicles into crowds. Many of the arrests appeared to be completely random. One of NLG’s Legal Observers was arrested and beaten with batons, demonstrating how indiscriminately the police were making arrests and utilizing excessive force.

Both NLG and CCBF remain committed to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. We believe direct action and protest are essential in achieving social change, and we have your back in the streets. Please stay tuned for further updates as we learn more.

Given our years of supporting movements fighting for systemic change, we have seen a pattern of police and prosecutors falsely arresting protesters and charging them with crimes they did not commit. Based on our experience and what we saw on the ground yesterday, we believe that this is happening on a widespread basis right now. We demand that the City and County immediately release those who are currently in custody and drop all charges against the protesters.

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