On May 30, 2020, the Chicago Freedom School, located in the South Loop, opened its space to provide support (including take-out pizza and store bought snacks) and rides home to Black and Brown young people protesting the racist police murders in downtown Chicago.
At 11 p.m., several Chicago Police Officers and members of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) showed up at CFS’ door and aggressively demanded to search the premises asserting that CFS was “housing and feeding protestors.”
“Many youth who had just experienced police violence while protesting said violence, came to CFS to use the bathroom, drink water, and get connected to a ride home – since the Mayor had just instituted a curfew, raised the bridges, and shut down the CTA. We chose to open our doors for immediate safety because we are dedicated to young people’s well-being,” says Wellness Director Jacqulyn Hamilton. “The City & Police colluding to search CFS that night, without a warrant, and threaten to arrest staff present, including myself, for daring to serve pizza – was in character for how this City and police treat Black & Brown young people – with disdain.”
After searching the premises, BACP members issued CFS a “Cease and Desist” order falsely claiming the CFS was “preparing and serving food” on its premises without a Retail Food Establishment License. The order directed the CPD to arrest CFS employees if they continue to provide youth participants commercially prepared food and fine CFS $500-1,000 each day it continues to provide food, thereby effectively shutting down this small, not-for-profit organization.
“We appreciate the love & support we have received from our community, in light of our mistreatment at the hands of the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. We are bringing this lawsuit to ensure that none of our programs, young people, or staff are at continued risk, and to affirm our support for the righteous protests against police violence against Black people and for the defunding of police,” says incoming Executive Director, Tony Alvarado-Rivera.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the City from enforcing this order. The suit also seeks vindication and damages as the search and order are attempts by City and CPD officials to retaliate against the CFS for exercising its 1st Amendment rights to support young people and to support the protests against racist police violence. Read the filed complaint here.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office and Sheila Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
“We are outraged that the CPD and BACP illegally raided the CFS’s premises and issued an illegal, unconstitutional, and frankly bogus, cease and desist order to the CFS” said Joey Mogul and Sheila Bedi. “The Chicago Freedom School provided critical support to young Black and Brown people on May 30th. They should be revered for their work, not threatened with arrest and being shut down.”
The Chicago Freedom School is a non-profit organization, inspired by the Mississippi Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights era, which provides a space where young people and adult allies can study the work of past movements, deepen their understanding of current social problems, build new coalitions, and develop strategies for change. Learn more at ChicagoFreedomSchool.org