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gender & sexuality | police / legal

Chicago Police attack Queers in Boystown; four arrests, many injuries

Chicago Police attempt to reinact Stonewall by rioting against queers.
On Saturday night, May 30th, a group of approximately 100 queers disembarked the red line train at the Belmont stop into Chicago's Boystown area. Intending to march around a bit, the crowd found themselves too large to fit on the sidewalk (especially in an area where bars are frequent and patrons and tables spill out the front doors). Most of the crowd moved into the street, walking around cars and allowing cars to pass in the middle.

A few blocks down, the crowd took a left turn, and the police showed up from behind. In attempting to get their cars around the crowd, they repeatedly ran into people's legs, in some cases knocking the victim onto the hood of the car, then slamming on their brakes to cause the person to fall to the ground.

During this time a few queers at the back of the crowd moved one newspaper box and one trash can (without spilling the trash) into the road in front of cop cars. A few other queers, yelling things like "no!" and "this is nonviolent!" moved the items back to the sidewalk (see sibling article, "What Happened at BashBack?" for more details on this incident).

As a few cop cars got to the front of the crowd. The first car in the line stopped and the cop jumped out and ran at the crowd, which parted down a residential side street. The cop stopped, shook his baton at the crowd, then went back to his car. The first few cars followed the crowd onto the side street. More cops parked and began running into the crowd, grabbing queers seemingly at random (although they did catch a high percentage of non-gender-conforming folks) and proceeding to beat them with batons and extendable asps. At this time, there was a scream from the middle of the crowd, and then people shouting, "he just ran her foot over!" The patient was helped out of the fray and a medic took over her evacuation.

During this time, at least 8 cops were involved in the beating of at least 10 queers in the crowd. They drug queers into the street and proceeded to hit them with batons, the queers falling to the ground in attempts to protect their heads. Reports tell of at least five successful unarrests as queers watched each other's backs. One queer, after very nearly escaping a very determined cop, was cornered against a building. The cop, waving his baton in the queer's face, kept repeating, "It's over, do you understand? It's over. Take your mask off." The queer, obviously feeling like it was not over, took advantage of a lapse of attention from the cop and took off again, successfully escaping into the crowd.

It appears that the most-targeted individuals were those who conform less to binary systems of gender. This was evidenced in the continued targeting of one of the eventual arrestees, when a cisgendered person put herself between the cop and his target and, instead of being hit, was told, "Move it!"

A summary of the injuries suffered by people in the crowd (not just the arrestees)- a broken big toe, bruised ribs (three people, one of which developed into pneumonia), bruised kidney, sprained fingers with accompanying infection, separated ligaments in the shoulder, soft tissue damage to the elbow, and uncountable bruises, cuts and scrapes.

In the end, four people were arrested, and spent the remainder of the night being harassed and tormented in the jail. At the holding facility, still in Boystown, the queers were mocked for their choices of hairstyle, questioned without being Mirandized, and threatened with rape ("you won't like it when we leave you in a cell with Tyrone. He'll sure like you though.")

Each of the arrestees, now called the Fabulous Four, is facing a misdemeanor charge of Aggravated Assault of a Police Officer with Hands/Minimal Damage. Three of them are also facing combinations of Obstructing Justice, Evading a Police Officer, Refusal to Obey an Officer, and Resisting Arrest. All of their charges can be summed up in layperson's terms as, "Refusing to Allow Self to be Arrested for No Reason." For that, we must stand behind the Fabulous Four and support them throughout their court process. It could have been any one of us that was there that night, but certain people, even in a crowd of queers, were targeted based on their appearance, and we need to unite behind them.

The first appearance (arraignment) of the Fabulous Four will be on August 7th in Chicago. More information to come about how to best support them will come in the future- at this point we are not sure who will need travel fees, or if the charges will just be dropped altogether, opening the way for a quick civil case. In the meantime, take this month of the anniversary of Stonewall to think about what liberation of queers means, and at what cost to our community it comes, and look for things you can do, either as a queer or as an ally, to support us in our quest.