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March for Freedom opposes oppressive public policy in Illinois

More than 150 women, children and men marked "Juneteenth" by taking to the streets in a march from Douglas Park to the Cook County Criminal Courthouse on Tuesday. The action was called to oppose public policy that oppresses and criminalizes families and communities of color in Chicago.
Chicago, June 19: Today more than 150 women, children and men marked "Juneteenth" by taking to the streets in a march from Douglas Park to the Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th & California to oppose the criminalization of families and communities of color in Chicago.

Because Juneteenth is acknowledged nationally as emancipation day for African Americans, organizers of today's March for Freedom & Rally for Justice chose the date to call attention to the role that public policy plays in continuing to trap Illinois residents in a life of poverty, low wages, substandard housing and criminalization. The courthouse was chosen as the endpoint of the march because, while more than 70% of Illinois residents are white, the majority of Illinois inmates and juveniles mandated to adult court are Black and Latino, a grim statistic march organizers say underscores the discriminatory nature of the courts in Illinois.

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the day Union Major General Gordon Granger informed Galveston, Texas slaves that they had been declared free. There is no record that Granger told them that their freedom had actually been declared two and a half years earlier, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

In a multi-cultural, multi-racial show of solidarity, marchers carried Puerto Rican, Mexican, Honduran and other flags along with banners opposing U.S. military occupation of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, supporting the campaign for expungement of 'criminal' records, and in support of amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

Speakers at the rally emphasized the unity of the struggle for justice for people from Chicago's diverse communities of color. State Rep. Constance Howard, who has led the legislative battle to provide for expungement of criminal records after sentences are served, spoke passionately about how former inmates confront sweeping discrimination in housing and employment after their release from prison -- even if their convictions were ultimately overturned. Dr. Jose Lopez of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center rallied the crowd around the call to end U.S. bombardment and military occupation of Vieques, and Emma Lozano of Pueblo Sin Fronteras brought people to their feet with the call for unconditional amnesty for immigrants. Other speakers reminded the gathering that police violence and criminalization remains a pernicious problem in working class communities of color, and urged those present to rally together to fight for livable wages, affordable housing, quality education, full employment -- and justice and equality for all Chicago residents.

Dozens of local groups endorsed the action, and organizers have vowed to use the action to build a growing and unified city-wide effort to confront public policy that disenfranchises Blacks, Latinos and poor people.

Tuesday's action was endorsed by groups and individuals who include the African-American Family Commission, the Black Economic & Political Action Network, Centro Sin Fronteras, the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, the Chicago Association of Black Social Workers, ChiTown Lowdown Newspaper, Citizens' Alert, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago, Kuumba Lynx, the Million Man March Organizing Committee, the National Task Force for Political Empowerment, Outreach Church of God in Christ, the Prison Action Committee, Prologue Alternative High School & COURAJ, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Rainbow/PUSH, Resident's Journal, Sankofa, the South Shore Methodist Church, the Taylor Organization Youth Services, the Union of Puerto Rican Students, and the Youth Services Project.

For more information on the campaign to support reasonable expungement laws, contact the offices of State Rep. Constance Howard at 773/356-6210.



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