When a traffic stop July 13 led to alleged offensive language and drawing of an officer’s revolver, ministers from across the city decided to hold a rally in front of police headquarters this past Monday.
The passenger in the altercation was one of their own”Rev. James Meeks.
Approximately 30 ministers showed up for the July 18 rally to call attention to the issue of “racial profiling” or, as it is more informally dubbed, DWB: Driving While Black.
On Sunday, July 17, Police Superintendent Philip Cline, along with his first deputy, Dana Stars, attended church services at Rev. Meeks’ recently opened 10,000-seat church, the House of Hope, located in the Roseland community. Rev. Meeks is pastor of the 22,000-member Salem Baptist Church. Besides being pastor of one of Chicago’s largest congregations, Rev. Meeks is also a prominent state senator.
According to Rev. Meeks, the white officer was at a stop sign near 116th & Kensington Avenue when Meeks’ driver pulled around him to make a turn.
“The officer turned on his lights and made us pull over. We did and I got out of the car to speak with him.” That’s when the officer became abusive, Meeks said.
“After I identified myself, he told me, ‘Get back in the car f***ing car.’ He then pulled his gun and said, ‘I know who you are. Get back in the f***ing car.'”
The officer then called for backup and two more squads of white officers arrived, as well as some black officers who are part of Meeks’ security detail. According to Rev. Meeks, the black officers were told to stay out of it.
Rev. Meeks has stated, “If that happened to me, Ray Ray doesn’t have a chance.”
Monday’s rally (which did not include Rev. Meeks) was an independent response from concerned ministers who want changes made immediately by the Mayor and the Chicago Police Department. Although Mayor Richard Daley condemned the incident, politicians, clergy and the community want more than lip-service. Ironically, State Rep. David Miller (D-29), Rev. Meeks and others had just met with Supt. Cline and first deputy Starks three weeks ago to talk about racial profiling, diversity and sensitivity training.
The incident comes on the heels of the Howard Morgan shooting and a beating suffered by West Side restaurateur Wallace Davis June 28 outside his catfish restaurant.
Moderator of the July 18 rally was Rev. Walter Turner, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference. In his opening statement, Rev. Turner said the black and Hispanic communities are targets of profiling. “It is affecting our community. We know about the incident that has happened to not only one of our great pastors, but one of our major state legislators. We want the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois to know that it’s not only happening to State Sen. Pastor Meeks, but it happens to our community, our young men, our young women every day. And that is why we have come together today to raise the issue, not the man. We have come to raise the issue that no longer can this be tolerated in our community.”
West Side pastor Rev. Albert Tyson, of St. Stevens Church, representing the African American Methodist Church, said, “As we undergo a policy of police harassment from the police department, we’re asking ourselves why are we sitting here until we die. I asked the men yesterday in St. Stevens Church ‘How many of you have been harassed from a traffic stop?’ Most of the men in the church stood up and half of the women stood up with them. So we request and demand that there be some uniform policies and procedures set in motion that will establish for our police department how they are to respond to those things they think are illegal as they stop us on our way to work, on our way home, on our way to church, on our way from church and on our way to play. We want the city and the police department to recognize we’re tired of sitting outside the city gate, waiting for something else to happen. We’re not going to sit here any longer.”
Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church, said, “As a pastor who has had countless people in my congregation come to me the 30 years I’ve been there, as well as my own son who got stopped for racial profiling, there has to come a time when we say we’re not going to continue to accept this as business as usual in the city of Chicago. You shouldn’t be pulled over just because you’re black or you’re a Latino in the city of Chicago. And immediately thought to be a criminal, thought to be a problem, thought to be a gangbanger, thought to be a drug dealer, just because you’re black or Latino. That’s not acceptable. We know there are a lot of good officers out here. Some are standing here today, but the reality is there are some bad officers out there. We want to expose the bad ones because they make it difficult for the good officers.
“I was terribly disappointed with Supt. Cline yesterday [attending Meeks church]. The fact of the matter is there will be training or discipline”an old dog can’t be trained a new trick. Racial profiling cannot be tolerated. If [the officer in question] is found to be guilty of the accusation, he should be fired. Until he is fired, he should be taken off the force like other people have because then you send a message that this is not acceptable behavior in the city of Chicago. And any officer that mistreats people or racial-profiles, the same thing will happen to you”get your resume together.”
Rev. Steven Thurston (president of the National Baptist Convention) said, “I was totally disgusted with the statement from the superintendent not [directing] an apology to Rev. Meeks for who he is and who he represents. I think he said it’s under investigation, but it doesn’t take any investigation to discover that he was way out of line in cursing, way out of line in pulling his pistol here in Chicago. We don’t have a Gestapo here. We do not have a military state here. We live in a city, a great city, we pay taxes in this city, we pay the salaries of police, and we demand respect. I guarantee you, if a black policeman had stopped the cardinal’s car and come out of that car like that white policeman did with Rev. Meeks, he would not have a job today. What we want is zero tolerance. We want that officer taken off of active duty. We want to be respected like anybody else. If we have to march on City Hall, we’ll walk these streets of Chicago and demand what is rightfully ours in this city.”
Rev. Marshall Hatch said, “Over the years, we have called for a citizens review board and there is noting unusual about having an independent review board, especially in a city this large. All across the country, major metropolitan areas have citizen review boards. Today on WVON radio, the alderman of the 29th Ward (Isaac Carothers), who also happens to be the chairmen of the Police and Fire Commission, has himself come out in favor of a police board and independent citizens’ review board, and so we, of course, want to hold him accountable to what he has said publicly. And, of course, we the citizens are behind it which would be a significant transformation in the ways that police abuse is investigated in Chicago.”