Friday, August 11, 2006


Cabrini Green residents marched to Chicago's City Hall Thursday to protest a police shooting that seriously injured a 14-year-old boy.

The group marched one-and-a-half miles from Cabrini-Green to the mayor's office. Since Ellis Woodland was shot Monday near the housing complex, several community members have wanted to know what witnesses told officers--particularly if the boy was surrendering his own weapon when he was shot.

David Russell, 42, who grew up in Cabrini-Green, stated for example, he saw the boy "leaning over to drop the gun" when officers opened fire.

"My nephew was going to put the gun down, and that's when they started to fire shots," the boy's uncle told NBC5 News. "They should have taken more precautions. They need to take more caution with these young teens and realize that everyone young isn't a threat to them."

"He only 14 years old," Valerie Strong, Woodland's aunt told Channel 7 News. "Now they want to shut us up, we're not going to be quiet; we're going to stand here until justice is served."

Woodland's 7th grade teacher, Monique Redeaux, 23, said she was drawn to the march because she believed officials were attacking the character of a soft-spoken pupil who made good grades.

"Ellis would be waiting for me an hour before I arrived at school, and he would help me carry my bags up the stairs," the Dvorak Elementary School teacher said. "He said he woke up early and didn't like to wait around the house, so he came early."

"Another black man has been shot down by the police," said Fred Hampton Jr. "Excessive force is putting it mildly. Our babies aren't even immune to this."

The tension started Monday night. Relatives lashed out at police while at Children's Memorial Hospital where Woodland is recovering. There is extra police security there now, and the boy's mother has remained at his bedside.

"It wasn't justified because they didn't have to shoot him that many times. So I don't feel that's justifiable to me," said Lillian Strong, Woodland's mother.

Ellis was taken to Children's Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds in his abdomen and thigh. William Woodland, 33, of Cabrini-Green, the older brother of Ellis, said the teen underwent surgery Thursday morning and afterward was breathing on his own, but not talking or eating.

"He should survive . . . he's a tough kid," his brother said.

Superintendent Philip Cline says Ellis Woodland had what turned out to be a B-B pistol, but it looked like a genuine handgun. At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, police officials passed out detailed photographs of the boys' BB guns and projected large images of them on a screen to demonstrate how closely they resemble firearms.

The marchers also were critical of other issues with the Police Department, particularly what they said was a pattern of harassment and brutality against poor African-Americans.

Being accused of trespassing in your own place, or told that your water bottle really is filled with liquor. Looking suspicious and getting knocked to the ground for it.

Simply feeling you don't belong in the neighborhood anymore.

These are the complaints of the hundreds of Cabrini-Green residents who marched yesterday, reports the Chicago Sun Times.

"It's crap, man. I was brought up here,'' said Jimmie Blossom, 63, who has since moved out of the neighborhood but visits regularly. "I know they want the neighborhood. . . . It's prime property. They are trying to get the poor people out of here. . . . I got a right to live, too. My God, I got a right to live. I might not have money ... education. But nobody can put me down and kick me in my side."

Protesters also expressed anger Thursday at recent development in the Near North area that has not included refurbishing the Cabrini-Green public housing complex -- making some feel unwanted.

"They don't care about the poor people in Cabrini-Green," said Paul McKinley, 41, a longtime resident of the community. "The city has done so much construction to make other parts of the area better, why not rebuild Cabrini-Green for everyone? I think the city doesn't value our lives."

At the march, when Thomas Strong, Ellis' uncle, questioned why no one from the police department had come to speak to them about what happened, one woman shouted: "Because he's black, and he lives in Cabrini-Green!"

"This a community that is fed up,'' said Dierdre Brewster, a community activist who organized the march. "It's obvious."

The following comes from the Chicago Defender.

Cabrini-Green youth take their message to city hall: ‘Stop shooting our children’
by Demetrius Patterson, Chicago Defender

It didn't amass to a large citywide coalition as predicted, but hundreds of youth from Cabrini-Green did manage to stun downtown Chicago Thursday and its financial district with a loud protest of the multiple shooting of a 14-year-old boy by police on Monday.

Ellis Woodland Jr. was shot several times by Chicago police after allegedly refusing to drop a BB gun from his hands that police said looked like a real semi-automatic weapon.

About 350 people, mainly adolescents and teenagers, marched from the Cabrini-Green Housing Project down LaSalle Street to the doors of City Hall where they were met by approximately 50 Chicago police officers on foot, bicycles and four-wheel motor vehicles.

The marchers, led by Willie J.R. Fleming, chairman of the Hip-Hop Congress of Cabrini-Green, and Deidre Brewster, were met halfway inside the downtown Loop area by mayoral candidate William "Dock" Walls, Fred Hampton Jr. and Derrick Harris, head of the North Lawndale Accountability Commission, among others.

The situation became tense between protesters and policemen when the agitated crowd was initially denied entrance into City Hall to speak with Mayor Richard M. Daley.

"We are taxpaying citizens. We have a right to go in and address the mayor," someone shouted out as a sea of blue and white police shirts blocked the entrance of the locked City Hall doors.

Initially, Chicago Police Assistant Deputy Supt. Charles L. Williams told Fleming and the group of protestors that only 20 people could go up to the fifth floor and protest in front of the mayor's office.

Just an hour earlier, however, about 40 to 45 people protested on the fifth floor in front of the mayor's office demanding that Daley sign the Big Box Ordinance into law, which would require large retailers to pay its workers a living wage.

"The Chicago Police are violating our civil and human rights," Fleming shouted over a bullhorn when the police refused to budge.

With that statement, the crowd started chanting "No more Emmett Till…"
Throughout the protest the Chicago police remained calm and polite, except for one white officer demanding that an African American journalist move from behind him because "I don't feel safe," the officer told the journalist - although the journalist was clearly standing next to the police officer with credentials exposed.

Fleming claimed that the group was denied access to City Hall because Daley didn't want to hear the truth about the shooting of Woodland Jr. Fleming said witnesses to the incident were in the crowd and wanted to address Daley directly.

Lance Lewis, spokesman for the mayor, gradually raised the number of people who could come into the building to 30, then to 40, but the disgruntled crowd wasn't having it.

"All or nothing," someone shouted from the crowd.

"I cannot allow 300 people up to the fifth floor," said a frustrated Lewis.

The protestors, joined by a core of young drummers, walked away from City Hall and began to march down LaSalle Street to the financial district.

Two white women, who had just walked pass the crowd turned around with fear in their eyes, and one shouted, "Oh God, here they come right behind us, let's move."

Police made no arrests. They stopped traffic and directed non-protesting pedestrians off of the sidewalks into the streets to get pass the protestors.

In one incident, a white pedestrian in a suit somehow had his briefcase and files knocked unto the sidewalk. Words were exchanged between him and some African American youth. But police rushed over to the scene and helped the man pick up his belongings and urged the agitated protestors to move on.

Protestors claimed that they were late in their estimated arrival time to City Hall because they were initially blocked from leaving Cabrini-Green. They also claimed several people were arrested.

Williams told the Defender that those statements weren't true.

"We made no arrests there," Williams said. "We did observe an individual who was driving a vehicle with revoked license plates. We did issue three traffic citations for that."

Williams said the high number of police were out to control the protest crowd, and also because of heightened alert due to the national international airplanes terrorist alert.

"How many white children have been shot by Chicago police in the last 20 years," Harris asked. "This has become a culture. This has become their m.o. This is their way of relating, and it clearly has become a problem with the African American community. I mean it's absolutely unconscionable."

Walls told the Defender that the protest is now just an unfortunate but necessary occurrence.

"This is just one of many marches that we have on a regular basis against police brutality and the shooting of young people in our community," Walls told the Defender. "So this is just par for the course.

"Even if it happened (the shooting or Woodland Jr.) the way the police said it happened, taking their extreme case, four times shooting a young man is excessive force. I'm sure a 14-year-old boy, upon getting hit by the first bullet, if he was lifting that gun, dropped that gun quickly and fell to the ground or probably was in the process of falling to the ground."

Walls said that under the Daley and Chicago Police Supt. Philip Cline's watch that "they have gone from arresting (Black) men and torturing them to shooting them down in the street."

Walls said he want the few policemen with the mentality of shoot-to-kill to stand down and be more sensitive to the fact that "these youth are people's children." He said the shootings of youth by police seem to be happening in the African American and Latino communities almost exclusively.

After marching to the financial district and back to City Hall, the police finally let Woodland Jr.'s family members and protest leaders into City Hall, totaling about 30 people.

There would be no meeting with Daley, however, as extra police covered the mayor's office entrance and even refused to allow media to stand behind the ropes to face the protestors and film them as they did during the Big Box protest.

Angry protest leaders vowed to show up unannounced at City Hall and find a way to vote Daley out of office.

"We are going to continue to come back until justice is served," Brewster told the Defender. "Until they stop treating the victim like he is a criminal. Until they stop treating the victim's parents like they are criminals."

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