University students protest school contracts with Chicago Police Department, Fraternal Order of Police

Protesters+gather+near+DePaul+University%27s+Loop+Campus+August+1+for+the+Solidarity+Street%3A+Abolish+CPD+Block+Party.

Julia Conturso

Protesters gather near DePaul University's Loop Campus August 1 for the Solidarity Street: Abolish CPD Block Party.

Chicago students from eight major universities gathered Saturday in support of the Solidarity Street: Abolish CPD Block Party to demand the termination of university contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD). 

The protest started at Millenium Park and ended with a block party on the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and State Street, in front of DePaul University’s Loop campus. The block party included speeches and performances and a tent set up with water and snacks. Protestors were also painting and drawing messages on the ground with chalk.

Along with the termination of contracts, protesters demanded universities refuse to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), invest in transformative justice processes that don’t involve policing, divest from military industrial complexes and lower tuition costs as remote learning continues. 

“[Universities] really spoke to statements of solidarity and statements of commitments to justice, but a lot of the statements that are released really don’t take into account what students are actually asking for,” said an anonymous Solidarity Street organizer from Northwestern University. “I think the university sees our demands as a small minority of students who want these very fringe ideas.” 

Crowds gathered in front of The Bean at the start of the event, where the initial speeches and poetry performances took place. The police presence surrounding the event was small, but officers stood on the outside of the protest as the crowd grew in size. As protestors marched through downtown, they remained on the outside of the crowd.

A speaker from Dissenters, an organization of young people who protest against the use of economic resources in the war industry, spoke about the militarization of the police and the military’s use of anti-blackness to fuel their agenda.

“The police have always been militarized, but they have been using more militaristic practices in our neighborhoods,” said the speaker.

Organizers encouraged students to educate themselves on their respective universities’ relationships with FOP and CPD. 

“I would say really pushing your university to divest from [police forces], and getting plugged in with what’s happening at your university, especially if your university has a private police force,” the anonymous protester said. “Even though it’s a university police force, it means that your town now has at least two police forces and private police forces have less oversight. They work with more impunity. They could do more and get away with more than regular police can.” 

Ariel Atkins from Black Lives Matter Chicago spoke in Millennium Park about the realities faced by Black and Brown protestors in relationship to the police.

“We were beaten and tear-gassed because they are afraid,” Atkins said to the crowd. “I watched cops beat protestors and rip their bikes from their bruised hands then throw those bikes at other protestors, then they claim that they were weapons.”

Protesters gather near The Bean in Millenium Park August 1 for the Solidarity Street: Abolish CPD Block Party. (Julia Conturso)

Protestors occupied the intersection at Washington Street and Michigan Avenue and those who brought bikes created a wall to block out the cars. A small dance circle broke out before protestors continued towards Jackson Boulevard and State Street. 

As they continued on, protestors participated in a series of chants including “CPD we want you out” and “No justice, no peace, abolish police.”

After their arrival in front of DePaul University’s Loop campus, protesters were dancing to music and live performances, drawing and painting on the ground and delivering more speeches. When the event ended around 11 p.m., organizers requested that protestors leave in groups.

Organizers from Solidarity Street wanted to make a statement to their respective universities through numbers and collaboration. 

“There’s power and safety in numbers, and I really think that universities don’t want us to work together. They know that there’s going to be more publicity and they don’t want to look bad,” the anonymous protester said. “Especially the ones that consider themselves socially liberal.”