A Tradition Unfolding: The We Charge Genocide Campaign & the Continuation of the Movement to End Police Violence
By Jason Ware, We Charge Genocide & Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression
A delegation of eight youth headed to Geneva Switzerland for the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) meeting armed with their carefully constructed report: Police Violence Against Youth of Color. The seven Black and one Mexican youth made the trip November 12-14 to represent We Charge Genocide, a newly formed, grassroots, volunteer-run organization in Chicago. Boldly, their aim was to do nothing less than to charge the Chicago Police Department with committing human rights violations against Black and Brown communities through their racial profiling, excessive use of force, sexual abuse, and indeed, genocide/torture.
We Charge Genocide (WCG) has brought together a coalition of activists across Chicago to document, resist and mobilize people against police brutality and the targeting of communities of color. In its very short time of existence it has truly captured the spirit of the youth-centered movement against the racist police system upon which the United States is founded.
These struggles are nothing new, nor are the campaigns and organizations that have risen up in response to them. Looking back at the pioneers of this work, we can find connections between the original “We Charge Genocide” petition filed in 1951 by William Patterson, the legacy of the Black Panther Party, and the track record of Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR). The contributions of these organizations to the current tactics, strategies and politics should not be ignored. They cannot be ignored. Such movements rose up to free the people from a police and prison system that exists only to attack Black bodies and people of color. This has been consistent, and with each passing era it breathes new life and has fresh faces in its ranks. As a young person myself, it is powerful to admit that we are at a time when the tedious work of our ancestors and the radical lessons of history have become the ammunition entrenched in the spirit of our resistance.
It’s imperative to note that William Patterson, who submitted the original petition to the United Nations on behalf of the Civil Rights Congress, was one of the forefront organizers to free Angela Davis. The case of Davis was the birth of the NAARPR, the mother organization of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR). Coming full circle, youth have called upon the same name of “We Charge Genocide” and are being supported in full thrust by none other than the leading members of CAARPR.
Millions of Black people have been forced to live within segregated and impoverished communities and are under constant risk of being brutalized and lynched. This was an issue understood by Patterson not only as oppression and subjugation but as an attempt at extermination both in America and the world at large. The battle against genocide in America is still being waged today, specifically in Chicago, and CAARPR is at the forefront of it. Frank Chapman, Co-Chairman, said at a recent meeting that police accountability and brutality are “a national problem that must be dealt with locally.” This is why the partnership and collaboration thus far between youth organizations, and WCG itself with CAARPR, is imperative. While there has been work on the ground by diligent organizers in the Alliance to gather over 10,000 petitions for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), the folks from WCG have managed to gain the attention of press nationally and internationally to cover these issues. Both strategies are equally necessary.
Credit ought to be given where credit is due, and WCG deserves a lot of it. On December 11, WCG held a report-back session with the community to share their experiences at the UNCAT and discuss the important highlights and shockwaves brought by their trip. The event, hosted at Roosevelt University, was attended by over 200 people, and was livestreamed on-line to accommodate eager viewers. The audience was fortunate enough to hear the official statements made by Ethan Viets-VanLear, Asha Rosa, and Breanna Champion in front of the UNCAT representatives.
At the report-back, there were many interesting stories revealed of both disturbances and successes. For example, on the second day of hearings the We Charge Genocide delegates walked out of Committee proceedings due to the inadequate responses and false statements made by US representatives. Later they staged a silent protest in the chambers of UNCAT when US representatives claimed no deaths had occurred from Taser use that year. Yet there was more to the trip than frustration and rebellious acts. Delegate Monica Trinidad spoke about the victories won: as the delegation had hoped, not only was the Chicago Police Department named in the concluding remarks of the UNCAT, but they also leveled harsh critiques of the use of Tasers and the overall treatment of people of color by law enforcement. Here is one of the official statements released a few weeks after the proceedings: “The Committee is particularly concerned at the reported current police violence in Chicago, especially against African-American and Latino young people who are allegedly being consistently profiled, harassed and subjected to excessive force by Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers.”
After returning from Geneva, WCG delegates claimed that though presenting their report “was not our end goal as We Charge Genocide,” they still “feel a slight sense of relief in the fact that the violence that Black and Brown youth systematically experience every day in Chicago is now getting the attention, internationally, that it deserves, which will only serve as an uplifting foundation in our continued work in challenging police violence in Chicago.”
It is important to note that the youth delegation did not travel alone—they were accompanied by other group representatives who also traveled from Chicago: the Transformative Law Project, the People’s Law Office, the Black Women’s Blueprint, and others. From its inception, We Charge Genocide has been very open to collaboration and support from other organizations. Indeed, it has relied on these connections in order to achieve all of its major goals. For example, WCG member Page May drew up a document entitled “20 Ways to Resist Police Violence in Chicago.” In the online resources May notes the vital organizations to join in Chicago and lists the important missions worth supporting (CPAC and the Alliance are #13). At the report-back May stated, “If we are not organizing and working to fight then we are the part of the problem.” Many see the rise of youth leaders, such as Page May, as a solution to the struggles people of color face in this country. Hopefully more young people will begin to see their inaction as problematic and be inspired to follow in the footsteps of these amazing organizers!
There are many articles about the powerful work being done by the youth of WCG. You can follow the specific details and our support for CPAC legislation in the links below. You can find mention of CAARPR and quotes from our own Sarah Wild in a ProgressIllinois article about the youth hearings held by WCG to uncover stories of police misconduct and terror. Similarly, an In These Times article titled “Chicago’s Cop Watchers” heavily focused on the WCG trip to the UN and CAARPR’s work around CPAC. This is the way solidarity functions. This is the way we will, on a national and international level, challenge the state into complete submission to obtain liberation.