After being injured during a protest march and spending a day in police custody, poet and activist Malcolm London was released Monday evening after activists spent the day outside a South Side police station demanding his release.
Wearing a torn yellow hoodie, London walked out of the 2nd District police station on 51st Street with some cuts and a bandaged hand. The crowd welcomed him with joy and tears. He was immediately embraced by several Black Lives Matter activists who fought to get him out.
“I’ve not slept. I’ve been worried. I’ve had hallucinations about dying,” he told a crowd of about 100 protesters.
London, 27, was arrested on Sunday at a protest in Hyde Park that turned violent. Video captured by a local TV station shows London, wearing the same yellow hoodie, being chased and surrounded by multiple police officers. The video shows the officers hitting London several times with their batons.
On Monday, outside the 2nd District police station, the group of protesters awaiting London’s release held signs that said “Free Malcolm Now,” and they chanted “let my people go.” The situation became tense, at times, as nearly a dozen police officers stood guard and tried to push demonstrators away from the entrance to the station.
“Folks, all we’re asking is for you to move back,” a police officer told protesters.
“All we’re asking for is for our people to be released. Release our political prisoners, and we can be gone,” a woman told the officer.
Protesters helped to de-escalate the situation, as they said they intended to have a peaceful demonstration. Damon Williams, who was arrested and beaten on Sunday, started talking to police officers and asking them to leave the department and join the movement.
Williams reflected on what it means to be a black activist targeted by police.
“There’s a list longer than I can remember of political prisoners who have been locked up because Black people have a historic tradition of standing up against racism but standing up against capitalism,” he said.
Williams was referring to Black Lives Matter activists around the country who have been incarcerated following protests or targeted for surveillance.
Javaron Buckley, London’s attorney, said police want to charge him with disorderly conduct. But Buckley said the charge that kept London locked up was a felony aggravated battery charge that police were trying to file. He said police accused London of assaulting a police officer.
Activists said this isn’t the first time that police officers have targeted London. He was a leader in the protests that followed the release of the video showing Laquan McDonald being shot and killed by police in 2015. At that time, London was charged with assault, but later the charges were dropped.
“It’s been five years since we marched on the streets and were beaten by police after the murder of Laquan McDonald,” Chicago rapper Vic Mensa said. “As we can see, ain't much changed.”
Mensa said he’s witnessed police officers beating up protesters, including himself.
“Police brutality is a necessity of white supremacy,” he said.
Chicago hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper and Chicago singer Jamilla Woods also attended the protest outside the 2nd District police station.
María Inés Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.