Zion, Illinois: Memorial for Justus Howell, Murdered by Police

“We’re not going to stand for this police terror!”

October 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


People at the Memorial for Justus Howell
People at the memorial for Justus Howell. (All photos: SMIN Chicago)

Carl DixRev. Jerome McCorry

Carl Dix (left) and Rev. Jerome McCorry (right).

On Sunday, October 4 the gray sky reflected the mood of 50 to 60 people gathered at the spot where Justus Howell had been murdered by police 6 months ago in Zion, Illinois. Zion sits along Lake Michigan, almost to the border of Wisconsin. In a different world it would be a pretty vacation spot. Justus was shot twice in the back while he was running away by Zion police. The district attorney declined to prosecute the cop.  

Justus was killed in front of a house in a residential neighborhood. The owner of the house allowed it to be draped with a gentle artistic fabric installation. Its creator is a supporter of Tony Robinson's family in Madison, Wisconsin. Tony was just 19 when he was killed by police there, not that long before Justus was murdered.

The remembrance/protest gathering was attended by friends, neighbors and relatives of Justus, local community activists, as well as people who traveled from Chicago to be there—students, Stop Mass Incarceration Network activists, the Revolution Club and more.

The gathering was addressed by Carl Dix and Reverend Jerome McCorry, national leaders of Rise Up October who had traveled to Zion mark this six-month anniversary with the Howell family. Reverend McCorry had a powerful impact on the faith community in Zion/Waukegan over the three days he was there. He challenged them to do what was right in standing up and taking on police terror and took them to task when they failed to do so. Dix and McCorry addressed the crowd about the importance of Rise Up October in New York City on October 22 through the massive march on October 24th. Alice Howell, Justus's grandmother and a member of the national steering committee also called on people to come to New York City on October 24 for a massive demonstration to stop police terror.

Carl Dix talked more about the challenge of Rise Up October:

This has to stop. Justus was a young man who should have been looking forward to the rest of his life. His life was stolen by someone who was sworn to serve and protect. And then the system covered it up. This happens every day, especially to Black and Brown young people. Not just the brothers, they kill sisters too. This has to stop. We can no longer stand by while they kill our children. We have to tell everybody, this is an issue for you. There ain't no standing on the side while this is going on. Because if you stand on the side when people are being killed for nothing other than the color of their skin, you're no longer a human being. That's what that comes down to. We're going to New York, to say stop police terror, which side are you on, we're going to be there in October and we want you all to be with us, but we're also going to say to people right now, stop police terror, which side are you on? There is no middle ground, you're either on the side of acting to stop this or you're on the side of saying it's okay to continue. Is it OK for this to continue? (Crowd: No!!!!)

LaToya Howell, Justice's mother shared her pain, grief and anger at Justus's life having been stolen by the police in a flash. As she spoke from the heart, she also demonstrated the courage and determination to fight not only for justice for Justus but so this doesn't happen again to even her “worst enemy.” Her words left many faces in the crowd stained with tears.

LaToya Howell, Justus Howell’s mother
LaToya Howell, Justus Howell’s mother

Y'all, this means a lot, this is the beginning of a large movement. He's talking about Rise up October, that's in NY. I'm raising funds for all of us to go to New York, make an impact to the world. We're going to let them know, we're not going to stand for this police terror, we're not going to stand for y'all killing our kids, it's unacceptable, we can't stand and by and watch, we got to do something. Plant your feet in the ground and stand up. This crowd right here, is enough to move the nation, all you got to do is make sure another person will come with you. We will multiply and we will conquer. Power to the people!... Let y'all community know we will not be silent. People scared to come out, scared to lose their jobs, some people saying "Oh, if I am part of this, I might lose my position." It's bigger than that. This could have been your shorty, Justus is your shorty. He wasn't shooting people up, he was running away. And they took his life, that stuff ain’t right. Some people telling us they don't want to be part of an angry and bitter movement. First of all, if your shorty was gunned down for nothing, you're trying to say you wouldn't be angry? I'm pissed off and I'm going to be like that for the rest of my life. This ain’t something I expected. We protect our children every day. I wasn't there to take a bullet for my son. But guess what, I'm here and I'm gonna be here for the rest of my life…my baby was a high school student, an artist, a rap star, he had dreams as high as the sky. They took that from him. That's an injustice. So I want you all to go tell somebody, get on social media right now...they trying to wipe it under the rug, shoo it away. I want to thank you all for being here. These shorties, that's who we protect, this is who we live for, we have to guard their future. Justus was your friend or your family. We need you to stand up and do whatever it is in your power to stand up for those who have fallen.

Justus's father expressed his love to everyone who came, sobbing as he described his love for his son while silver and gold balloons were released into the air in Justus's memory.

Then the crowd marched to the Zion police department. Chants rang out:

"We won't be silent, why not! We won't forget those two shots."
"We won't throw in the towel! Justice for Justus Howell."
"Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell."

At the police station, in an act of international solidarity, a Latina came to represent for and draw the connection between the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa teacher's college in Mexico and the police murder of Justus and other Black and Brown youth in the U.S.  She said:

In the Latino community, like you, we have been put down. Like Latoya said, don't just like us on Facebook... We need to be united...fight for justice. I represent those mothers who lost their kids in Ayotzinapa, college people, fighting for their rights. They disappeared them, buried them... We need to be together, stand together.

As people spoke, LaToya, in pain and anger, banged on the walls of the police station and called the police out for keeping Justus's possessions which she wanted returned for the memorial. The police locked the door to the station, cowering inside the whole time the protest was outside their doors.

After the march back,  people were called on to buy tickets to New York for Rise Up October. A Columbia College student told the crowd how she started a go-fund me campaign to raise money for herself and many others to go to New York. Everyone was invited to join the Howells to hear Carl Dix and Revered McCorry the next night at a program in Zion to build for Rise Up October.



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