Protesters in Chicago are demanding justice after police officers attacked a teenage activist last week during a demonstration in which people attempted to topple a statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park. An officer struck 18-year-old Miracle Boyd, a recent high school graduate and organizer with the group GoodKids MadCity, in the face, knocking out several teeth. Journalists also reported being mistreated by police officers, who used chemical sprays and batons on protesters. “This is consistent with what we’ve seen from the Chicago Police Department in their response to these uprisings,” says Sheila Bedi, the civil rights lawyer representing Boyd.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. We go now to Chicago, where protesters are demanding justice after police officers attacked a teenage activist last week during a demonstration in which people attempted to topple a statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park. An officer punched 18-year-old Miracle Boyd in the face, knocking out several teeth. Miracle is a recent high school graduate, an organizer with the group GoodKids MadCity. Journalists also reported being mistreated by police, who used chemical sprays and batons on protesters. Police said 12 people were arrested. This is Miracle Boyd speaking at a news conference Monday.
MIRACLE BOYD: I was attacked by CPD, who value a supremacist statue over my life, safety and well-being. … Christopher Columbus did not discover America! He was a rapist, murderer, thief and colonizer, who laid the groundwork for Indigenous genocide and the transatlantic slave trade of Africans. Yet the police is protecting a statue of a man who died more than 500 years ago. The police are not serving and protecting. There is no way I should have left a protest bruised and battered for exercising my freedom of speech and freedom to assemble. I am disgusted and never would have ever thought I’d become a victim to the biggest gang in America.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Miracle Boyd speaking at a news conference on Monday. This comes as President Trump announced he’s sending a “surge” of federal agents into Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded on CNN.
MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT: We do not want unconstitutional, secret federal agents coming into our cities, grabbing our residents and detaining them and violating their rights. I’ve drawn a very bright line there, and we’re not going to go back from that.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Chicago to speak with Sheila Bedi. professor of law at Northwestern University. She is the lawyer representing Miracle Boyd.
Professor Bedi, thanks so much for joining us. Can you start off, before we talk about the “surge,” in talking about what exactly happened to Miracle?
SHEILA BEDI: Thank you so much for having me.
So, Miracle Boyd is an activist, a freedom fighter. She works for an organization called GoodKids MadCity, that really focuses on ending violence in the South and West Sides of Chicago. And Miracle was at the protest on Friday, and she was doing what she does, which is documenting police violence, trying to ensure that the protest was going to occur without some of the violence that we’ve seen consistently during the uprisings in Chicago.
She was filming the arrest of a man, and an officer came up to her and slapped her because she was filming this arrest, and slapped her with such force that her front teeth were knocked out of her head. And this is consistent with what we’ve seen from the Chicago Police Department over the last three months in their response to these uprisings.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Sheila Bedi, could you explain that in Chicago, head strikes, like the one Miracle Boyd was subject to, are considered a use of lethal force in Chicago? So, could you talk about that and what the implications of that are, and what exactly it is that Miracle Boyd is calling for — restorative justice? Explain what she’d like to see happen.
SHEILA BEDI: Sure. So, the city of Chicago is subject to a federal consent decree. And the decree makes it clear that head strikes, which is where police officers are using force to the head area, is a form of lethal force. It’s a form of force that should only be used when lethal force can be justified, so if you’re dealing with somebody who’s suspected of a violent felony, if you’re dealing with somebody who is an immediate threat to a police officer or to somebody else. That, of course, is not Miracle Boyd. But what we’ve seen throughout these protests is police officers using that kind of lethal force against protesters in an effort to try to quell the movement, in an effort to retaliate against protesters for the exercise of their First Amendment speech.
What Miracle is calling for at this time is for the officer to be fired. The videotape is very clear: Miracle was not a threat. Miracle was exercising her First Amendment. This officer came up to her and used this lethal force against her in retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment rights.
And the other thing that Miracle is asking for is for this officer to engage in a restorative justice process. She’s not asking for the officer to be charged. She’s asking for the officer to engage in a process where she can really explain to him what this has done to her, what this violence has done to her, how it’s affected her, the trauma that she is experiencing. So, that’s her demand of this officer at this time.
AMY GOODMAN: And now if you can respond to what President Trump is saying he’s doing in Chicago? It looks like he’s particularly focusing — and he’s clearly said, you know, Democratic mayors — particularly focusing on cities that have mayors who are women and women of color.
SHEILA BEDI: I mean, no question about that. During Donald Trump’s comments yesterday, he made it very clear that this action was about quelling the movement, that this action was about specifically taking on the activists who have called for defunding the police, and that he’s tying intercommunal violence to those demands, which is just not supported by data, not supported by the facts.
It is also very clear that this request for the federal troops to come into Chicago was supported by the Chicago police union. The police in Chicago have a long history of cooperating with the federal government to violate the rights of people in the Chicago community. There’s a real concern that that is what is going to happen here, that the deployment of these troops, that that’s been done to try to quell these protests. And that’s unconstitutional. And that’s something that will absolutely be challenged in court.
You know, the issue that we have right now is that the Chicago Police Department has systematically attempted to chill the First Amendment rights of protesters. And that has been happening on a regular basis. It’s been happening in a very systematic way. The overlay of additional federal troops is deeply disturbing in what that might mean for these protests.
AMY GOODMAN: Sheila Bedi, we want to thank you for being with us. So, just to answer in a word, you’re suing on behalf of Miracle Boyd?
SHEILA BEDI: Miracle Boyd will be filing a civil rights lawsuit, that’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Sheila Bedi, professor of law at Northwestern University, lawyer representing Miracle Boyd.
When we come back, the harrowing scenes of paramilitary-style units in the streets of American cities may shock mainstream America, but the violent presence of federal border agents is not unfamiliar to many Black and Brown communities. Stay with us.