Freedom Square organizers have ended their 41-day occupation outside of the Homan Square police site on Chicago’s West Side, but not everyone is leaving.
Activists from the Let Us Breathe Collective began the protest at Homan Square in July. They set up tents for people at a vacant lot across the street from the police site in the Lawndale neighborhood, and called it Freedom Square. They provided free food and aid, all while protesting police brutality.
But this week, organizers ended their occupation saying they failed to “maintain collective vision about the values and operation of the space.” They took down the first aid canopy and the arts and crafts canopy, but a handful of occupants decided to stay.
Lawndale resident Bruce Williams says for him, the mission has shifted to be about helping the community and not so much about police accountability.
“It’s to help people in need who don’t have a place to stay. Some people sleep on the bridges. Some people sleep in doorways. We’re sleeping in Freedom Square,” he said.
Diamond Brown sat outside of a tent and said today was day 43 of occupation for her. She was there with her five-year-old daughter.
“I felt like [the organizers] weren’t strong enough so I decided I was still going to stay because if they see us give up, then we ain’t never going to be nothing. Martin Luther King didn’t give up, Jesus Christ didn’t give up. So why should we,” she said.
For organizers, it wasn’t about being tired of the mission, but support was dwindling, making it difficult to safely de-escalate the conflicts that arose. In a statement, they highlighted accomplishments like educating children and connecting with Homan Square torture survivors. But they lamented that personal items were stolen and women were verbally abused.
Today, among the small group that remained, an argument broke out between a man and a woman. Physical threats were made. The handful of children at the lot watched as it unfolded.
Organizers are still calling for the shutdown of the CPD Homan Square facility.