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Police Protests Come to Uptown

Monday night, I watched from my office window as thousands of protesters flooded the streets. It was the largest protest I’ve seen in Uptown in the 40 years that I’ve lived and worked here.

I’m sure you know the immediate cause of the protests—the recent murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. But the protests are also in response to a longstanding racist brutality within police departments all over the US.

There is no question that anti-Blackness is woven into the fabric of the US criminal justice system. That system starts with policing, and ends with parole from prison. Many people and organizations do work that fights racist policing, work that UPLC is in solidarity with and grateful for. 

Because the racism of the system does not end at the point of arrest, UPLC is committed to our work changing the prisons. 

If the prisons were full of middle-class white people, reform would have happened a long time ago. But they are not. In Illinois, just 14.6% of our residents are Black, but 54.5% of our prisoners are. 

Illinois has one of the worst prison systems in all the country. If you don’t believe me, you can ask the court-appointed experts working on our lawsuits. They travel all over. 

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “A riot is the language of the unheard.” At UPLC, we are glad to see that a light is being shined on the anti-Blackness of the system we have worked to change for 40 years. We believe Black lives matter. We believe prisoners matter. These were founding principles of UPLC, and are not up for debate. 

Thank you for caring about prisoners, when prisons are built specifically to hide them away. 

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