The recent fatal shooting in the back of Aaron Harrison by Chicago police has the community angry and tense. In an effort to seek help and get their story told, Harrison’s family asked the Rev. Al Sharpton to come to Chicago’s West Side to meet with them.
Harrison was shot Monday, Aug. 6 in the 1100 block of South Mozart Street in North Lawndale.
On Friday, Aug. 10, Rev. Sharpton made an appearance at Wallace’s Catfish Corner, located at 2800 W. Madison, and held a outdoor rally in the parking lot. As Rev. Sharpton chanted his trademark phrase, “Keeping it real,” the large crowd cheered, clapped and called “Amen.”
“We’ve got to keep it real, and we’ve got to prepare to fight. I announced a couple a weeks ago we’re opening an office of the National Action Network in September here. We didn’t come to take over. We come to work with everybody, we come to stand with everybody, we come to stand shoulder to shoulder with everybody-to let the city know we ain’t no punks. I ain’t standing up with nobody scared, I ain’t scratching where I don’t itch, I ain’t laughing if it ain’t funny. If we’re going to stand together, we’re going to stand for what is right. No black and brown, no selling out, no cutting deals-stand up for our children, stand up for women, stand up for our lives. No matter who the adversary or what’s the fault, we demand justice. No justice, no peace.”
Following Sharpton, speakers included Rev. Paul Jakes, pastor of Old St. Paul Church and one of the rally organizers; Wallace “Gator” Bradley; and West Side Mosque leader Minister Caleb from the Nation of Islam. Harrison’s family members then went inside Catfish Corner to have a sit-down meeting with Sharpton.
Wallace Davis, proprietor of Catfish Corner, former alderman and himself a victim of alleged police brutality in the 1970s, told the media, “We have more than camera of this incident. We have an eyewitness that saw the police. I’m not giving you something theoretical. This man saw the police murder this man. And I want you to know we know where the weapons come from. If Daley don’t know where they come from, we’ll let you know where it comes from. We have a witness who told Cliff Kelley on WVON radio, ‘I’m scared to say anymore.'”
The witness (whose name was not given) came forward and made the following statement to the media: “I’ve been in this community many years. I’m 78 years old. I’m a Baptist, and I will not tell a lie. I was standing maybe 25 feet from the police. This boy ran across the alley, and the police were in the middle of the alley, and he stopped and shot the boy in the back. Other officers were standing there, right there behind him, and wasn’t doing anything. I’m not going to say too much, but the police could have subdued him. He could have stopped him, but he didn’t. And what makes it so bad, he ran up and put his knee in his back, handcuffed the boy after he was shot. One more thing: I didn’t tell the officers my name or anything, and he came to my house at 12:30 a.m., and I asked him don’t you have any respect for yourself? You shouldn’t have come to my house at 12:30.”
Davis stated, “We are not trusting OPS (Office of Professional Standards). We have our own investigation and our own witness.”
Harrison’s aunt, Ashunda Harris, talked extensively to Sharpton as Harrison’s mother, family members and community activists sat with her. According to published reports, the police were trying to question Harrison about a homicide and allegedly he was pointing gun at them. However, witnesses claim Harrison did not have a gun. Initial reports stated the autopsy results indicated he was shot in the back. Later, police said Harrison was shot in the back shoulder.
During the rally, a number of firetrucks and police squads showed up and at certain points the sirens were so loud, it was hard to hear the speaker. When the rally ended, there was some confusion between police and rally members. It appeared the police wanted the crowd to disperse more rapidly, but many continued to chant slogans. Some television media reporters nearby expressed concern that unrest would erupt. However, nothing happened, and the crowd eventually left the area.
Rev. Paul Jakes; Karl Brinson, president of Westside NAACP; Fred Hampton Jr.; and representative of the Nation of Islam have all called for the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved. Ministers and members of the North Lawndale community where the shooting occurred say they do not trust the police to investigate.
This week the family filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. They are being represented by well-known Chicago attorney James Montgomery Jr.,
Services for Aaron Harrison were held Aug. 15 at New Mount Pilgrim Church, 4301 W. Washington Blvd.