“Justice for Justus” in Zion, Illinois

April 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From readers:

On April 4, Justus Howell, 17 years old, was shot twice in the back and murdered as he ran from a cop in Zion, Illinois. It was the same day that Walter Scott was also shot in the back and killed as he ran from a South Carolina cop. There was no video in Justus Howell’s case, as there was in Walter Scott’s, but there were eyewitnesses who said that Justus was unarmed and running away when he was shot. His uncle, Dennis Howell, expressed his anger, saying, “My nephew Justus Howell didn’t deserve to die. They shot my nephew down like a dog.”

Zion, Illinois, is a small town, north of Waukegan and not far from the Wisconsin border and Milwaukee. The funeral for Justus on Friday, April 10, was attended by hundreds, and he was clearly loved and missed by family and friends. On Saturday, April 11, there was a short march to the Zion police station where a rally was held. The crowd of 200 or more was overwhelmingly Black and young. There were also Latino friends of Justus there and a significant section of older people as well. The march and rally were organized by community activists, including Clyde McLemore, a precinct committeeman. Tio Hardiman of Ceasefire Violence Interrupters, Black Lives Matter organizers, and revolutionaries bringing ShutDown April 14 to the event, all from Chicago, joined the protest by local residents.

Zion, Illinois, April 11Zion, April 11

There were many handmade signs calling for “Justice for Justus.” There were damning signs carried by young people—“BLOOD ON THEIR BADGES.” Throughout the day, there was a passionate call for justice and a barely contained anger that kept breaking through the surface. Some of the speakers advocating that the protests be respectful, or calling for working within the system’s dead-ends (like by filing complaints)—were verbally interrupted and challenged. At times a section of the crowd just drowned out that message with chants of No Justice, No Peace. When one speaker chided the defiant ones about no foolishness and only peaceful protest, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune overheard one young man talking back, “They didn’t build this country peacefully. Shackles and chains built this country.”

At the rally outside the police station, local community activists, Justus Howell’s relatives, and religious leaders spoke, demanding an independent investigation and making sure that the killer cop, whom the Zion police department had not yet publicly identified, is fired and prosecuted. The Chicago revolutionaries were welcomed warmly and brought to the front to speak at the rally. A large banner of the Stop Murder by Police poster drew much attention. A woman speaking for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network in Chicago drew the parallels with the South Carolina murder of Walter Scott and pointed behind to the banner with the 44 stolen lives on it to stress that this is business as usual in America. She led the crowd in the chant, “Every city, every town, has its own Michael Brown. April 14, shut it down!” She introduced Gloria Pinex, the mother of Darius Pinex, shot down and killed during a traffic stop in 2011 in Chicago. Gloria Pinex told the crowd the bitter truth—how she had taken her case through criminal and civil court, and the cops were exposed as lying through their teeth about how the murder of her son went down, but they were still exonerated! The fact that Gloria came to stand in solidarity with them was very much appreciated by the crowd.

Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?

"Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?" is a clip from the film REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. The film is of the November 2014 historic Dialogue on a question of great importance in today's world between the Revolutionary Christian Cornel West and the Revolutionary Communist Bob Avakian. Watch the entire film here.

People swarmed the revolutionaries to get ShutDown April 14 materials and Revolution newspaper. The poster of Stop Murder by Police with stolen lives from Revolution was grabbed up, along with palm cards and stickers for April 14. Many people wanted to give contact information. In one poignant moment, several young girls (maybe as young as six) were counting how many people’s pictures there were on the banner. They asked if they could have Stolen Lives posters. In response to a comment that it was sad that the poster is what the little girls felt they needed to have, Gloria Pinex said, “Yes, it’s sad they have to count them.” We really felt the crying need for a world where this never happens.

The day ended at a community center “town hall meeting” with 70-80 people filling a large room. There continued to be many ideas about how to go forward, with some urging reliance on complaints filed with the police or electing better officials. When the two women revolutionaries were introduced and asked to speak about Stop Mass Incarceration, they spoke to the need from this day forward to put an end to this—that all this must stop now with April 14 being a decisive part of this. People who participated in the march and rally brought the Stolen Lives banner and put it up on the front wall for all to see. People were again moved when Gloria Pinex spoke of the pain and outrage of losing her son to police violence and then seeing that same murderous cop go on to kill yet again, and said, “We must all act now and resist all of this—we can’t rely on the police or the politicians—if we don’t stand up to all this we will end up being extinct like the dinosaurs and we are not going to wait around and let that happen.” [Editor's note: six months after being acquitted in the murder of Gloria's son, Officer Serra went on to murder Flint Farmer]

People then sang the “I Can’t Breathe” song popularized by Samuel L. Jackson and were led again in the chant, “Every village, every town, has its own Michael Brown. April 14, shut it down!” Community organizer called on people to go to Chicago on April 14. People were debating about whether to have a ShutDown A14 in Zion/Waukegan or to bring a “Justice for Justus” contingent to Chicago.

The meeting ended with people forming a large circle and a woman from Black Lives Matters in Chicago led the whole room to hold hands and repeat the chant made famous by Assata Shakur. "It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."

Afterward, there were a number of people who took photos and videos of themselves with the Stolen Lives banner. In particular, a group of youths who had gathered in the parking lot came over and took the banner so they could take their pictures with it. More palm cards, stickers, and posters were taken, many by the bundle.

Walter Scott and Justus Howell are now joined in this terribly painful way... both murdered by police on the same day just three hours apart... both shot in the back in the same way... one caught on film and one not. It has to stop and that is on us.


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