When did your organization, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, decide to join the No Cop Academy campaign? Why?
Jane Addams Senior Caucus became involved in the #NoCopAcademy campaign in the fall of 2017. Racial & Gender Justice organizer, Melisa Stephen, was involved with the campaign through their work with For The People Artists Collective. When JASC members heard about Mayor Emanuel’s plans to spend $95 million on a new cop academy, just blocks from where several JASC members live – we immediately got to work.
How has your organization contributed to the campaign?
In the winter and spring of 2018, Jane Addams leaders hosted westside meetings and teach-ins, organized phone-banking efforts, attended actions & events, and helped spread the word about #NoCopAcademy with other seniors. Before the vote to purchase the land for the Cop Academy, JASC leaders testified at the Committee on Housing & Real Estate about their opposition to the plan, which emboldened several Alderpeople on the committee to ask challenging questions of the Mayor’s people and express concerns with the plan.
When Black Lives Matter Chicago led a mass survey of 37th ward residents, Jane Addams members played a critical role in making sure we heard from at least 500 people about their opinions on the cop academy, and how $95 Million should be spent on the west side. One of our leaders, Gloria, lives just two blocks from the site of the potential cop academy, and door-knocked with her neighbors to let them know about the plans. She’s also organized others at her church, Bethel Lutheran to get involved – even hosting a Westside Teach-in at the church attended by 30+ people to reveal the results of the survey!
What has been your organization’s highlight of the campaign?
At the City Council meeting in March, #NoCopAcademy youth organized a die-in at City Hall, complete with tombstones uplifting the names of all those killed by CPD under Mayor Emanuel, the schools he’s closed and the clinics he’s shuttered. It was a powerful action that Jane Addams leaders were proud to attend and support. Before the die-in took place, during the public comment period of the meeting, four Jane Addams leaders, including two from the 37th ward (all from the west side), testified in front of the Mayor & Aldermen, about the importance of investing in youth, schools & communities over increased spending towards policing. It was incredible to witness this powerful intergenerational moment, followed by hours of chanting and dancing when #NoCopAcademy held the first floor lobby for 6 hours following their die-in.
What strategies/tactics/frameworks does your organization bring to the campaign?
Jane Addams Senior Caucus has played a critical role in the campaign because so often, age is used as a wedge to divide communities on important issues. As organizer Melisa Stephen has repeatedly pointed out, the Mayor and many Aldermen love to act as though all seniors want more policing, and see young people’s behaviors as the main problems plaguing society. Having the leadership and involvement of JASC members and leaders providing a clear alternative to that narrative has been incredible. While Black youth are at the forefront of the #NoCopAcademy campaign, it is absolutely an intergenerational effort. JASC members have been trying to model the kind of elder support for youth organizing that we need more of in this political moment. Let the youth lead, but the rest of us gotta have their backs – and Jane Addams is proud to support #NoCopAcademy. Fund communities, not policing!