Justice for Justus Howell:

"It was bloody murder! I'm screaming bloody murder!"

May 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Between 40 and 50 determined protesters, led by Justus Howell’s mother and family, and the Revolution Club of Chicago, waged a spirited demonstration on Friday, May 15 in Waukegan, Illinois, demanding “Justice 4 Justus”. 17-year-old Justus Howell was shot twice in the back and killed by Zion police officer Eric Hill on April 4, 2015.

Justus Howell

Justus Howell
Photo: Howell family

This demonstration was one day after Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim called Justus’ murder “justified.” It was also three days after the Madison, Wisconsin cop who killed Tony Robinson in Tony’s house was cleared of criminal charges, and two days after significant protests in Madison. All of this is also only a few weeks after the Baltimore rebellion. Waukegan is the seat of Lake County; Zion is a town of 24,000 (60% Black and Latino) in Lake County, about an hour’s drive north of Chicago, close to the Wisconsin border.

Police claim Justus had a gun and turned as if to shoot while he was running. The local paper, the Daily Herald said in an article after the May 15th demonstration: “A video of the shooting released on Thursday [May 14th], and posted at dailyherald.com, does not make it readily apparent that Howell is turned toward the officer, and the investigation showed that the teen was shot twice in the back.” Witnesses at the scene, quoted extensively in various media when Justus was killed, said they saw no gun.

The anger in Zion, especially since Thursday’s ruling that the murder is “justified”, is intense.

"One of my worst fears was confirmed when they said there would be no justice for gunning down my son,” said LaToya Howell through tears into a megaphone for the crowd. "We need to advocate for our youth because if we don't do it, these injustices will continue to happen. It has to stop today. It has to stop now. We need to stand up for our rights."

At the rally, LaToya Howell also said, "This is inhumane. This is brutality in its worst, worst form…Everybody who's seen that video saw the thing I saw. I saw them gun my son down with his back turned. He was not a threat….That was a crime that was committed. They murdered my son." Later, while occupying one of Waukegan’s intersections, LaToya grabbed a megaphone: "It was bloody murder! I'm screaming bloody murder!"

"It’s happening all over the world! Officers are getting away with murder!" said an older Black woman to NBC Chicago TV, which led their 6 pm news with coverage of this protest.

Family members of Justus’ and others from the community insisted that the Revolution Club’s Stolen Lives banner, which includes a photo of Justus, lead the march. “It’s about ALL the children in this banner,” said one. High quality 11 x 17 prints of the Stolen Lives poster were distributed and money was raised for them. The Revolution Club speaker got a “tremendous” reception at the rally.

After a brief rally, the protesters, led by Justus’ family and the Stolen Lives banner, took the streets, and systematically closed one after another intersection of downtown Waukegan. Family members and others were determined to “shut it down.” One long-time community activist called for the US Department of Justice to intervene.

The Chicago Tribune described the scene at one intersection: “A (public) bus was held up for several minutes. Officers tried to intervene but were unsuccessful in asking the protesters to move. The bus ultimately reversed and backed away from the scene.”

Lake County as a whole, and many towns in it, all have a reputation for having notoriously corrupt officials and police. And Lake County is right next to the infamous Cook County.
The State’s Attorney was recently elected as a “reformer” – and people saw the results on full display as he tried to justify his decision that Justus’ murder was justified.

County officials were so worried about the demonstration that they closed the County Courthouse at 1:00 pm. "Through social media, there are several groups who said they intend to come to the protest today," said a Lake County administrator, apparently referring to the Facebook event hosted by the Chicago chapter of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

One new Revolution Club member made sure that everyone at the rally had the current issue of Revolution, and the Revolution Club statement with its two main principles: Humanity needs revolution and communism! And Fight the Power, Transform the People, for Revolution!

People who drove up from Chicago at the rally had lively discussion on the way to and from the protest. Key questions included how to understand the world; the need to be scientific vs. ignoring or opposing something if you don’t like it, even if it’s true; and the importance of the Revolution and Religion dialogue.

Many challenges confront demonstrators and the Revolution Club. The biggest one is how do we proceed from here, on many levels? To get Justice for Justus Howell, now that criminal charges have been rejected. To stop ALL the murders by police, that happen in major cities and small towns such as Zion. To build and strengthen the movement for revolution, including among people who have just heard of it, and are itching to know more.

More plans are being made. The next Justice for Justus rally is next Saturday, May 23.


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