BAN rally

Ariel Atkins addresses the “Defund or resign” rally. 

Chants of “not police,” “defund CPD,” and “16 shots and a cover up” echoed through Harold Washington Park on Wednesday evening.

The Black Abolitionist Network (BAN) launched its campaign titled “Defund or Resign,” with a rally that featured performances, speeches, food, and a community mural.

Organizer Destiny Harris said to a crowd of about 300 people that “we are here because we want the Chicago Police Department to be defunded.” The rally precedes BAN-hosted mass resistance training sessions against the CPD which “will offer an orientation to police/prison abolition, how we are going to defund the police in Chicago, and how we can use organizing, direct action, and movement-building to win.”

Kobi Gilroy, an organizer with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression (CAARPR), spoke at the rally. He described the CPD as “an occupying force in our communities.” He cited his personal experience with police brutality as an unarmed black man: “They protect and serve capital. They don’t protect us. They don’t serve us.”

Among the performers at the rally were Chicago songwriter Tasha, rapper-activist Bella Bahhs, and Chicago musician Ric Wilson.

The rally’s name—“Defund or Resign”— is aimed at Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Ariel Atkins, a BAN leader, asked the crowd to tweet “defund police or resign” at Lightfoot, but Atkins and many others attending the rally noted that their tweets disappeared soon after posting them.

A two-week old organization, BAN is a self-described “constellation of people and organizations collaborating to dismantle anti-Black & carceral systems and build systems that affirm and nurture Black lives.”

Kristiana Rae Colón, another BAN organizer and co-founder of the Let us Breathe Collective, said that “the horizon goal of the Black Abolitionist Network is to abolish anti-blackness, which we understand as a technology of capitalism.” They seek to abolish prisons and police and to train people in the fight to do so. “We want to equip people with the skills to talk about the campaign and to take action for themselves.”

Their 11-point list of demands includes defunding CPD by 75% and investing the money into social services and community programs, having the City Council pass a Civilian Police Accountability Council, and removing CPD from Chicago Public Schools.

BAN will hold its mass resistance training July 3, 4 and 5 from noon to 5 p.m. Locations are to be determined. Free childcare and meals will be provided.

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