Spurred by the alleged assault of student Clemmie Carthans on January 24, students and community members protested against police brutality last Friday, delivering a petition with over 800 signatures to President Don Randel and a letter to Rudy Nimocks, head of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) requesting an apology to Carthans and demanding an investigation.
Groups such as CAP Brutality, the Enough is Enough Campaign, University Church, and the Spartacist Youth League marched from the flag pole at the center of the quadrangles to the Regenstein, and finally to the University police building on 56th Street and Ellis Avenue to present the petition in person.
As protestors rallied and cheered, ABC camera crews followed the crowd and filmed the event, which was led by Divinity School student Paul Ford, a member of CAP Brutality. During the course of the protest, Reverend Don Coleman of University Church and Joan Parkin of Enough is Enough spoke about their respective organizations, and Carthans recounted his story in front of the Regenstein Library.
The rally took place on the last day of a week-long movement against police brutality organized by CAP Brutality, including a day of silence on March 1. Students from the School of Social Service Administration formed CAP Brutality in response to the January 24 incident.
"The rally was a success because it demonstrated the concern of the community regarding the issue of police brutality and harassment," Ford said. "There was a high, diverse turnout of students and community members. This type of coalition was one of the goals of the rally."
Michelle Freeman, a student of the SSA and member of CAP Brutality, was also pleased with the turnout. "We have community members from both Woodlawn and Hyde Park, and not only students," she said.
Community member Sandra Couthern, who recently moved to the far South Side, was present at the rally because police brutality is particularly important to her. "I'm an activist," she said.
"We're the city. We're the ones that own the community," Couthern added. "We have to take it back."
Ford argued against those who assume that because Carthans is a convicted felon, he should be judged negatively in the investigation of the alleged January 24 assault. "Much has been made of Clemmie's past But we must remember that he's a student at one of the most elite institutions in the country," Ford said. "We incarcerate far too many brothers in this country."
Coleman said that the members of University Church feel solidarity with those working against police brutality. He also added that civil servants were responsible for addressing such public concerns. "Both churches [that make up University Church] are serious about public officials being elected to be our servants. We are absolutely opposed to taking power and becoming corrupt. That is evil in our society," Coleman said. "We are all created in the dignity of God. It is right to have a moral responsibility to protect the dignity of others."
Parkin described the role of privileged students in the civil rights movement, drawing parallels to the efforts of Chicago students in the 1960s. "Even though they were rich kids, they went down South and helped [with] civil rights," she said.
"We will not accept Clemmie not being able to walk across his own darn campus," Parkin said at the rally. While urging those present at the rally to say, "I am Clemmie," she called for thousands of people to march through the streets of Hyde Park.
The rally was planned before CAP Brutality received word that Nimocks had written a response regarding the status of its internal investigation. Though the response was received just 20 minutes before the rally began, Ford managed to contest the UCPD's treatment of the case in his remarks.
"Mr. Nimocks's response did not address the allegations at hand. All it did was articulate department policy, rules, and regulations that were clearly not at play when this incident happened," Ford noted in an e-mail to the Maroon. "His response was decidedly unhelpful to the reformation and reconciliation our group is pursuing."
Heather Powers, a second-year SSA student and member of CAP Brutality, called the response irresponsible. "It sounds like we're not going to be able to hear about the investigation," she said.
Ford said he thought that any satisfactory response must involve the UCPD's taking responsibility for the offense according to the guidelines outlined in a letter that Carthans and two members of CAP Brutality delivered to Nimocks. The letter demanded an apology to Carthans and an investigation of the incident.
"We tried to make the information as thorough as possible," Nimocks said when told of these allegations.
The investigation will soon be reviewed at the Law School by a committee composed of faculty, students, and staff.