The GEO Steering Committee recently signed in support of the Bluest Lie Campaign, a campaign against the potential introduction of the so-called Blue Lives Matter ordinance to the Chicago City Council. This proposed ordinance would categorize offenses committed against police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians as hate crimes. It distorts the purpose of hate crime legislation and we cannot sit idly by as it is discussed in our city government.
Currently, Illinois uses the hate crime designation to prosecute offenses committed on the basis of “actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin.” Attacks against police and other first responders are already classified by Illinois law as aggravated assault and therefore carry stricter penalties than assaults against civilians. Police are also protected by their unions and by city and state officials and enjoy protections far above those of regular citizens.
Bills similar to Chicago’s proposed “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance have recently been introduced in states and cities around the country, even though attacks against police are at record lows. These bills constitute a hostile right-wing reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement and to increasing calls for police accountability and racial justice. Nationally, as well as locally, the bills are opposed by a variety of civil rights and social justice organizations, including: Black Youth Project 100, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, American Civil Liberties Union, Uptown People’s Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League. In Chicago, many of these groups have come together to form the Bluest Lie Collaborative.
One of our biggest concerns with the introduction of the “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance is that it could be used to categorize any negative interaction with police as a hate crime and suppress advocates of police accountability. To help our city heal from incidents such as the police killings of Paul O’Neal and Laquan McDonald—which both attracted national attention—we need to be able to have open, constructive, difficult, and sometimes contentious conversations about race and policing. We must confront the fact that Black lives have long been undervalued in the City of Chicago, especially by law enforcement. GEO must support its Black members, friends, and family by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement generally and the Bluest Lie Collaborative specifically.
GEO believes that hate crime legislation is meant to protect oppressed people and communities. Attacks on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or national origin are not isolated incidents. They are connected to larger, systemic forms of oppression like white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, etc. We don’t consider police to be lacking in systemic power, and we don’t believe there is a systemic form of oppression directed against them. Not only does the ordinance appropriate the language of Black Lives Matter with the name “Blue Lives Matter,” but it also appropriates the whole idea of what it means to be a protected class, which we consider offensive.
Another concern with the ordinance is its potential to derail the work underway within the city and across the country to bring about change. For example, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and allied groups are pressuring the City Council to enact a Civilian Police Accountability Council, or CPAC. Community Renewal Society has also proposed a FAIR COPS Ordinance that proposes changes in police oversight policies at both the city and state levels. Nationally, the Movement for Black Lives recently proposed a bold platform for systemic racial justice. In a city and nation already divided and wracked with problems, the passage of “Blue Lives Matter” bills will only create more polarization and distract from conversations on the urgent need for police accountability and racial justice.
GEO is dedicated to racial justice and equity not only on campus, but in the communities in which our members live. We believe in lifting up all of our members and the people they care about, and supporting them in all areas of their lives so they can be safe, happy, and successful. Sustaining productive conversations and actions about police accountability is one of the ways we can support all of our members. It is with these thoughts in mind that GEO officers have signed in support of the Bluest Lie Campaign.
Yours in Solidarity,
2016-2017 GEO Steering Committee
Andrea Craft–Co-chief Steward
Anne Kirkner–Organizing Chair
Emily Hallgren–Outreach Chair
Jeff Schuhrke–Grievance Chair
Sarah Cooper–Communications Chair