CHICAGO, IL – Youth leaders of the grassroots organization, Gender JUST, held a press conference yesterday to respond to efforts in Boystown/Lakeview to increase policing, as well as the racially charged profiling and harassment that has arisen following recent incidents of violence in the neighborhood. “We don’t downplay this violence,” said Gender JUST youth leader Joshua McCool, “but we won’t allow you to use this as an excuse to profile us; we see policing and profiling as tools of violence – and you can’t fight violence with violence!”
The press conference drew every local news outlet and was the first time that an alternative perspective on the recent incidents of violence was portrayed in the mainstream media. Another Gender JUST youth leader, Ahkia Daniels, spoke of the need to increase city-funding for resources on the south and west sides of Chicago. “I don’t want to have to take the bus two hours to receive services on the Northside, and then get harassed by residents and business owners when I get here.”
This press conference occurred outside a July 6 CAPS meeting, where police met with hundreds of Boystown residents and business owners. Gender JUST youth and allies also spoke at the meeting about how increasing policing on the streets creates more surveillance and racial profiling, and ignores the many reasons why youth come to the area and the root causes of violence. Gender JUST board member, Renisha Campbell, testified that “simply displacing and locking up young people isn’t going to solve the problem.” Meanwhile, the crowd booed, shouted racial slurs, and several times throughout the evening someone would shout “GET A JOB!” every time a young person of color spoke.
Gender JUST youth leaders have been in discussions with the City of Chicago and the North Halsted Business Alliance about increasing funding for queer youth services on the South, West, and East sides of Chicago. The NHBA has elected, instead, to fund more off-duty security in the area. Gender JUST has been working to make the entire city safe and affirming for all people.