By Max Suchan and Brad Thomson
On April 29th, 2015, DePaul NLG hosted “A Legal Teach-in for Rekia Boyd.” The goal of the panel was to explain the legal basis of Judge Porter’s recent decision to grant a motion for directed verdict acquitting Chicago Police officer Dante Servin of killing 22-year-old Black Chicago resident Rekia Boyd near Douglas Park in 2012. The event, which drew nearly 200 participants, was geared towards equipping Rekia’s community and family, as well as activists across the city organizing around the bourgeoning Black Lives Matter Movement, with information about the legal process and present an opportunity for various organizations to come together to strategize next steps in seeking justice for Rekia. Among the co-sponsoring organizations were Chicago’s NLG chapter, TUPOCC, Peoples Law Office, Black Lives Matter Chicago, We Charge Genocide Uptown People’s Law Center, Project NIA, and the Lawndale Christian Legal Center.
DePaul university security became aware of the event by monitoring social media, and alerted the Chicago Police Department. DePaul NLG organizers were repeatedly contacted by security and law school administrators with ridiculous concerns that the event would turn into a protest that might “incite Baltimore-like violence,” despite the explicit legal teach-in nature of the event. The building the event was hosted in was surrounded by dozens of Chicago police, who also brought OEMC cameras and a Stringray vehicle with data mining and monitoring capabilities. DePaul brought on an additional four security officers for the event, and posted security on the floor of the event itself despite the explicit desire of organizers that there be no security presence.
Additionally, DePaul administrators sent out a panicked email to all law school faculty and staff suggesting that the building would close early due to the event and allowing professors discretion to cancel their classes, office hours, and review sessions on the eve of final exams. Administrators also intentionally removed any mention of Rekia’s name from posters they imposed on the student organizers in order to attempt to avoid any “controversy or anger” surrounding the event. Organizers responded by writing Rekia’s names to all posters to ensure that her life and memory would remain a central focus of the teach-in itself.
The shameful response on the part of CPD and DePaul law school administration and security was undoubtedly due to the police accountability content of the panel, as well as the fact that the majority of the attendees were non-DePaul community members of color.
Despite this repression, the event successfully drew a large and diverse audience and strengthened the community of activists seeking justice for Rekia and all who bare the brunt of racist police terror.
The JMLS NLG chapter also faced push-back from school security and administrators when they organized a March 24th evening CLE panel on police brutality as part of a series of events on police misconduct, including teach-ins on Chicago police torture. The panel featured anti-racist and abolitionist community organizers, as well as civil rights attorneys describing the available legal remedies to address rampant police misconduct. The school responded by arbitrarily and selectively enforced security policies unenforced for other events by requiring a list of all attendees 24 hours before the event. Once organizers submitted a list of potential names based on RSVPs and the Facebook attendee list, the number of potential attendees was so large that the school claimed it would be a fire code violation. While ultimately all attorneys were allowed in, community members who were not on the list and could not produce photo identification were turned away. Chicago police were outside both entrances to the law school building during the panel, which created a chilling atmosphere to the free sharing of ideas.
DePaul and JMLS staff, students, and alum are encouraged to contact both school administrations to voice their support that NLG events, especially those with large community participation, do not encounter such repressive methods in the future.
Both student NLG chapters remain committed to organizing similar programming in the future and are continuing to publically push-back against measures to undermine public discussions of police violence at each campus. DePaul NLG’s faculty advisor initiated a public statement, signed by several additional professors and staff, condemning the school’s response to the teach-in for Rekia Boyd:
“To the Organizers of the April 29th Teach-in for Rekia Boyd and the Parents of Rekia Boyd:
As members of the DePaul law school community, we wholeheartedly support your efforts to hold police accountable for killing our youth with impunity, to educate the public about the structural forces behind this national phenomenon, and to build a movement to end these oppressive practices and structures. We were saddened to learn that at the recent teach-in event last Wednesday to honor and seek justice for Rekia Boyd at our law school, participants were greeted by a large police presence by Chicago Police Department and DePaul Public Safety. We commit to working at the law school to ensure that we do better next time to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all to explore these important issues of criminal and social justice, highly relevant to any law school community.”