Statement on lack of charges against Chicago Police officer in Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier shooting


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
 
 Contact: Katelyn Johnson
Action Now rejects State's Attorney's decision
Prosecutors need to provide answers to community 
 
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has declined to bring charges against Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo in the fatal shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones on December 26, 2015. The State’s Attorney’s Office said there is “insufficient evidence” concerning the officer-involved shooting. We at Action Now reject the State’s Attorney’s Office’s conclusion and are disappointed in the decision not to prosecute the officer.

The recent Department of Justice findings of glaring failures in investigating cases of misconduct by the Chicago Police Department are further proof of the long-held belief that justice is being denied to people who have been violated by police officers. The State’s Attorney’s office has the power to investigate and prosecute police misconduct despite the lack of accountability within the police department. A failure on the part of the county’s investigative arm to provide justice for former Action Now member Bettie Jones’s and Quintonio Legrier's families is ample reason for our communities to distrust those in power to protect them.

“This is frustrating and beyond discouraging.  There is no reason why these two community members should have died, other than police negligence. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and the State’s Attorney’s Office will have to do much better if they are ever going to earn long-term trust of community members,” said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Despite this disappointing decision, Action Now members invite Kim Foxx to speak with us about her plans to build trust between the community and the State’s Attorney’s Office. We are eager to share our ideas with her on moving forward withcommunity-based plans to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. 

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Statement on minimum wage 'grand bargain' in IL Senate Bill 2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
 
 Contact: Katelyn Johnson
No Bargain for Illinois Workers
Senate Bill 2 Needs to Do Better

Illinois workers are falling farther and farther behind because of stagnant wages. For years, Action Now has been part of a coalition that has sought a living wage for Illinois. This has meant working with groups across the state who have been concerned about the rising inequality here that has accompanied fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis. We see the Fight for $15 as the answer. And that's why we believe that Senate Bill 2, currently being considered as part of the so-called "grand bargain" package does not honor our principles and is, in fact, a significant step back, as written.

 Locking in a wage floor of $11 by 2020 does not go far enough in dealing with the problem of inequality. Currently, more than 41 percent of all workers in Illinois earn less than $15 per hour. Setting that as the standard for 2020 is a reasonable and phased-in solution. Across the country, state and local governments have felt the same. This could be our moment.

SB 2 also pre-empts places like Cook County and the City of Chicago from raising wages on their own. Given the significantly higher costs of food, transportation and housing in these communities, it is a major step back to take away their local government's ability to respond to the needs of their workers. And the idea of "pre-emption" and erosion of home rule also brings with it the types of insult to racial justice that are so abundantly evident in places like Flint, Mich.

"The fact of the matter is that Illinois is overdue for a reasonable wage of at least $15 per hour. There are too many working families struggling to get by to continue to compromise on doing what is fair and what is right", said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now

Simply put, we can't support SB 2 as it's written. If this is supposed to be the "progressive" part of the "grand bargain," it needs to do a lot better. A $15 wage floor and eliminating pre-emption is the place to start.

Action Now is a part of a coalition of organizations including Fight for $15, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, fighting for working families and a minimum $15 per hour living wage.

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Action Now Statement on DOJ report on Chicago Police

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                Contact: Katelyn Johnson
(312) 676-4280

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Action Now calls for delay on new FOP contract
The City should agree on consent decree for federally mandated reforms

The Department of Justice investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department has been released, and the conclusion is that the department is in need of major reform. Action Now believes that it is imperative to stop negotiations on the new police contract until the City and the federal government introduce the framework around how reform will be implemented.

We have engaged in multiple town-hall conversations with city residents on police reform, with many concluding that the FOP contract is a critical starting point for improving community policing. The current contract makes it too hard to identify police misconduct by allowing practices such as requiring investigators to ignore and destroy evidence, requiring affidavits to investigate misconduct and limiting the investigation of anonymous complaints against officers. The DOJ uncovered a pattern of disturbing practices in Chicago that includes excessive uses of force, the need for de-escalation tactics taught in officer training, a critical lack of oversight of rogue officers, and a glaring deficit in investigating cases of misconduct. These issues can and should be addressed through the negotiation of the union contract.

“The FOP contract could present significant barriers to the reform measures agreed upon by the city and the federal government.  The city council must consider delaying the negotiations until the consent decree process is complete”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Any negotiations regarding the new FOP contract must cease until there is not only clarity on the federally mandated reforms that can be overseen by an independent monitor, but also robust input on the changes the people in our communities want to see. The top down approach to community policing is a part of the problem, and it is about time that the voices of the people are heard in this ongoing fight for accountability.

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Action Now and faith leaders hold rally to support Reverend Catherine Brown in her suit against the Chicago Police Department for excessive force.

 

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 For Immediate Release

 

Press Release

Community members demand justice in Chicago police excessive force case

 Faith leaders, activists and community members gathered in front of Chicago Police Headquarters to support a call for progressive police reform.

 

Chicago - On Friday, May 13th, 2016 at 11:00 AM, Action Now members and community leaders held a rally in front of Chicago Police Headquarters in a show of support for Reverend Catherine Brown, a mother of three that is suing the department with claims of excessive force, stemming from a 2013 incident caught on dash-cam that shows the officers beating, pepper spraying-and dragging the woman from her car.

 

In the video, Reverend Brown can be seen driving down an alley towards her driveway when she encounters a marked CPD squad car heading towards her without lights or sirens. Officer Michelle Morsi Murphy jumped out yelling profanities and ordered Brown to move her car.  Officer Jose Lopez pointed his gun at Brown’s head as she reached for her license. Fearing for her life and that of her two small children, she called 9-1-1 repeatedly and backed out of the alley while blowing her horn for help from neighbors.  Officer Morsi and Officer Murphy chased her in their car, and rammed her after she came to a complete stop.  The officers forced her door open, pepper-spraying her as her children screamed and forcefully dragged her from her car as they are seen striking her as she lay on the ground.

 

The officers from the video are currently still on duty with the Chicago Police Department. Community members have seen that the Chicago Police Department continues to allow unacceptable conduct from its officers.  Spurred by the Laquan McDonald case, the Department of Justice recently investigated the department over extensive allegations of excessive force and other misconduct.  Too often, officers are shielded by a “blue code of silence” when it comes to claims of excessive force, and are rarely removed from duty.  Officer Morsi Murphy currently has 19 complaints lodged against her, while Officer Lopez has 21, according to Citizens Police Data Project. Local activists and faith leaders see this as a major problem with police accountability.

 

“The Chicago Police are not holding their officers to the highest standards of conduct, especially  in black and brown communities.  For too long, officers have been allowed to engage in conduct that endangers the physical and psychological well being of the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect.  We need progressive police reform in order to bring justice to these communities”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

 

If the Chicago Police want to restore faith in the communities they serve, then they can not continue to protect officers that do not perform their jobs to the highest of standards.  Complaints of excessive force are all too common in the city, and lack of disciplinary actions are even more common.  Superintendent Johnson must show that he is serious about working with the community in initiating progressive policing reforms.  Officers like Morsi-Murphy and Lopez should not be working for the department with so many complaints against them, with the Brown dash-cam video being just one glaring example.

 

“"These officers should not still be on duty.  We demand that the superintendent give us the justice we seek. He should do the right thing and remove these officers from our streets, so that we can all have peace" said Catherine Brown.




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Action Now is a grassroots community organization of working families in Chicago fighting for racial, social and economic justice.  For more information, please visit www.actionnow.org




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Chicago’s Largest African-American Community Organization Reacts To Ferguson Injustice

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Chicago’s Largest African-American Community Organization Reacts To Ferguson Injustice

“There is a place for you in the movement and we need you.”

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"Voters Want $15" Say Community At Protest Outside Alderman Will Burns Office

Contact: Aileen Kelleher (312) 351-0395

akelleher@actionnow.org

For immediate release

 

Press Release

"Voters Want $15" Say Community At Protest Outside Alderman Will Burns Office

92.6% of voters in Alderman Burns' ward supported a $15 dollar minimum wage, yet he signs on to Mayor’s opposing ordinance instead

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Community Response To Chicago Mayor’s Minimum Wage Ordinance: Voters Want $15 Now!

Contact: Aileen Kelleher (312) 351-0395

For immediate release

Media Alert

Community Response To Mayor’s Minimum Wage Ordinance: Voters Want $15 Now!

               

Action Now, a community organization and founding member of the Raise Chicago campaign, has issued the following statement:

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Movement vs. Machine: An Action Now Political Forum

Contact: Aileen Kelleher (312) 351-0395

akelleher@actionnow.org

For immediate release

 

 Press Release

Movement vs. Machine: Action Now Forum To Change Political Landscape Featuring Alderman Toni Foulkes and Jay Travis

Grassroots leaders who went up against the Chicago political machine share what they have learned about challenging the establishment

 

Chicago – Action Now is holding a political forum titled “Movement vs. Machine” this morning, May 10th, 2014 at 10am at Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Church located at 1406 W. 64th Steet. The forum will host speakers Jay Travis, a former candidate for State Representative who almost beat incumbent Christian Mitchell by 477 votes even though he outspent her 8-1, and Alderman Toni Foulkes, a grassroots community leader who was elected to the Chicago City Council in 2007. They will share with Action Now leaders their experience going up against the current political machine in our city and state and how grassroots organizing can change the political landscape

 

Action Now is holding this forum to begin new conversations about the state of politics in Chicago and Illinois, and how community engagement and progressive movements can help shape and redefine the power structures that the current political establishment is working to keep in place. Our elected officials have stood silent while school closings, foreclosures, lack of investment and the Mayor’s assault against good jobs have decimated our neighborhoods.

 

As Action Now leader Charles Brown stated, “Politicians only listen to us when it’s an election year. We make several trips to Springfield each year to talk to legislators and we hold meetings with our city politicians, but they refuse to act in the best interest of working people. Only the rich and connected have influence. We need change and we are ready to take action to get people in office that fight for us.”

 

In the recent March 2014 primary elections Action Now leaders saw that grassroots organizing can help a fresh face defeat the political machine’s incumbent. Action Now is in the process of creating a Political Committee of Action Now members that will focus exclusively on identifying, supporting, and cultivating candidates that take direction from their constituents and remain accountable to communities instead of corporate interests.

 

Visuals: 50 Action Now leaders will be in attendance to hear Alderman Foulkes and Jay Travis speak. Then members will break off into groups to rate the current legislators and discuss whether or not to support them in upcoming elections.

 

Action Now is a grassroots community organization whose mission is to organize working families and strengthen their voices on issues of racial, social and economic justice.Our vision, is for strong, safe, and stable communities where everyone has access to living wage jobs, quality public education, affordable housing and has a powerful voice at the decision making table for their communities, cities, state and nation. Find out more at www.actionnow.org

 

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Parents Hold Prayer Vigil At Board President Vitale’s Home In Plea To Save Schools On Turnaround List

Contact: Aileen Kelleher (312) 351-0395

akelleher@actionnow.org

For immediate release

 Media Alert

Parents Hold Prayer Vigil At Board President Vitale’s Home In Plea To Save Schools On Turnaround List

Parents, students, staff and community members from McNair, Dvorak and Gresham schools, exasperated by lack of democracy in CPS decision-making, hold vigil at home of CPS Board President David Vitale

CHICAGO - On Tuesday, April 8th, 2104 at 5:30 pm Action Now parents and community leaders are holding a candlelight vigil at the home of Board of Education David Vitale, 4925 S. Woodlawn, in an effort to save Dvorak, McNair and Gresham Elementary schools from becoming AUSL turnarounds. Speakers at the vigil will be:

  • Dr. Diedrus U. Brown, Principal of Gresham Elementary
  • Antwainetta Hunter, a parent from Dvorak Elementary
  • Latrice Hurd and Destini Watson, students from McNair Elementary
  • Anna Khawam, teacher from McNair ElementaryZerlina Smith, Action Now parent leader from the Austin community with a daughter at Saucedo Elementary
  • Zerlina Smith, Austin community leader and CPS parent

Parents have seen that the Board of Education refuses to listen to community input when it comes to making drastic decisions about public schools. The historic school closings in 2013 were widely rejected by parents, teachers, students and community members in public hearings, marches and protests, yet the Board of Education went through with the closings anyway. With the announcement that three schools may be forced through the harmful AUSL turnaround process, parents see no other option but to make a direct appeal to David Vitale, the President of the Board of Education by holding a prayer vigil at his home.

"The Board of Education was appointed by the Mayor and they don't listen to anything the community has to say. AUSL turnarounds don't work and are just an excuse to keep privatizing our schools. They get millions of our taxpayer dollars but don't even perform better than neighborhood schools! We are serious about saving our schools so we have no choice but to take our message straight to Vitale," said Zerlina Smith, parent leader with Action Now.

Before becoming Board President, David Vitale was the Chair of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL), which is the only organization that receives contracts to turnaround public schools. Vitale’s presence on the Board of Education presents a conflict of interest that contributes to Action Now’s decision to hold a vigil at his home. The questionable nature of his relationship with AUSL should be examined further before AUSL receives any taxpayer funds through lucrative CPS contracts.

The AUSL turnaround method is problematic because it requires that every staff member in the school be fired. If Dvorak, McNair and Gresham become turnarounds, hundreds of living wage jobs, the majority of which are held by people of color, will be eliminated. The turnaround method contributes to the current trend of education reform that seeks to replace experienced teachers of color with a younger, whiter and cheaper teaching staff. In AUSL’s turnaround of Stagg, the percentage of teachers who were African American dropped from 80 to 35 percent when AUSL took over.[1]

Experienced teachers of color who have established vital relationships with children as well as the community are more likely to stay in their positions, while new staff from outside of the community are ill-equipped to deal with the many challenges facing students who live in high-poverty neighborhoods. This results in a high turnaround rate among AUSL staff, which is detrimental to student performance – only 42 percent of teachers at turnaround schools in 2008-09 were still there three years later.[2]

The silencing of the voices of parents and communities, coupled with the suspicious relationship between AUSL and CPS, points to the lack of transparency and democracy in the decisions made by the Chicago Board of Education. Most current CPS education policies appear to be motivated by profits instead of what is proven to help children succeed. For years, schools in low-income communities of color have been starved of resources and labeled “failing” just so that private contractors like AUSL or charter schools can sweep in with an influx of cash to save the day.

When private contractors take over schools, they destroy bonds between teachers and students and receive millions of taxpayer dollars that would have been better spent at the school prior to privatization. It is a money-making scheme that is not only destroying our public education system, but dismantling democracy in our schools.

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Action Now is a grassroots community organization of working families in Chicago fighting for racial, social and economic justice. For more information please visit www.actionnow.org

 



[1] http://www.designsforchange.org/democracy_vs_turnarounds.pdf

[2] http://www.designsforchange.org/democracy_vs_turnarounds.pdf

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Action Now Parents Speak Out At CPS Turnaround Hearings: “Keep Your Hands Off Our Schools!”

For immediate release

Media Alert

 

Action Now Parents Speak Out At CPS Turnaround Hearings: “Keep Your Hands Off Our Schools!”

 

What: Action Now parent leaders have been organizing against the proposed school turnarounds at McNair, Dvorak and Gresham elementary schools and will be attending the public hearings to speak out against CPS continuing to inflict failed policies that go against the wishes of parents, teachers, students and communities.

 

When: Hearings are today, April 2nd, 2014 from 6-8pm. Parents will be available for interview before and after the hearings.

 

Parent contacts:

  • McNair Elementary – Zerlina Smith (773) 418-0954
  • Dvorak Elementary – Lisa Russell (77) 301-2610
  • Gresham Elementary – Carolyn Kelly (312) 593-4608

Why: Action Now parents and community leaders fought hard against the historic school closings in 2013 and feel that “turnarounds” are simply school closings by another name. As parent leader Zerlina Smith stated, “Changing a school into an AUSL turnaround is just another way for the Mayor and Chicago Board of Education to privatize our public schools. Our schools aren’t failing, it is CPS that is failing to provide adequate resources for our children to be successful. They should try giving funds to our schools BEFORE the turnaround process and see how much they improve!”

 

Parents are concerned about the turnaround process’ detrimental effect on students because when all staff are fired, vital bonds between students, teachers and support staff are broken. McNair, Dvorak and Gresham schools are all located in low-income communities of color, and serve one of the most vulnerable populations of children in the city. Destroying the stability of a school community has a profoundly negative affect on students whose lives are already filled with uncertainty.

 

When CPS makes a school a turnaround, it fires all staff, turns the management over to the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and then gives AUSL huge amounts of money to run the school. It is a method that makes money for AUSL, but does not improve educational outcomes. CPS says it uses the turnaround method as a way to improve “failing” schools, yet there are several AUSL turnaround schools that are on academic probation. David Vitale, the current President of the Chicago Board of Education, used to be the Chair of AUSL. AUSL is a politically connected group of business people making money off of public education. Parents are standing up to the politically connected education profiteers of the Board of Education and AUSL to say, “Keep your hands off our schools!”

 

Action Now Communications contact:

Aileen Kelleher, (312) 351-0395, akelleher@actionnow.org

 

 

 

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