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Activists Divided In Talks Over Racial Tensions In Mt. Greenwood

By Stephen Gossett in News on Nov 17, 2016 4:28PM

Activists protest in Mt. Greenwood on November 8 / Photo: Tyler LaRiviere

Mt. Greenwood’s long history of racial tension has erupted into a flashpoint in recent weeks, as activists and residents squared off in tense protests and counter-protests. Both sides met on Wednesday evening, joined by local officials, to try to hammer out a way forward amidst the turmoil, even as other Chicago-based activists have outspokenly criticized such meetings.

“We dealt with some very hard truths, some very hard realities as Americans in the city of Chicago,” activist Jedidiah Brown said, according to the Sun-Times. “We decided not to judge each other by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character, which came out in these hard conversations.”

Aside from activists and residents, Glen Brooks, CPD Area Coordinator and IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley were among those present, helping to facilitate, according to reports.

Brooks said that the tone of the meeting, which took place behind closed doors, at one time turned animated. “We decided that we wanted to continue to have a frank and honest conversation,” Brooks said, according to the Sun-Times. “And I can tell you honestly there was a point in that conversation that it got heated. There were some exchanges, but everyone agreed this conversation has to go forward.”

Demonstrations erupted in the Far Southwest neighborhood after the police-involved killing of Joshua Beal. Some Blue Lives Matter supporters shouted racial slurs and held racist signs; and five students at Marist High School were expelled for participating in a racist text-message conversation. Activists met with Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson; Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), who represents Mt. Greenwood; and Marist Principal Larry Tucker last Friday in lieu of a planned protest. Marist classes were also cancelled that day due to “safety concerns.”

The larger Black Lives Matter group was strongly critical of BLMYouth, which met with officials. "History has made it perfectly clear that police are designed to enforce Black subjugation," the organization wrote in a post last week. "We know freedom can not be gained by working with our oppressors."

Prominent Chicago activist Ja'Mal Green echoed that sentiment early on Thursday, calling the meeting a "publicity stunt."

Brown posted a rebuttal to Green on Thursday morning, saying Green expressed "ignorance."

Another large-scale protest is scheduled in the neighborhood, at 111th Street and Kedzie Avenue, on Sunday afternoon.