Tenants at the Harold Ickes housing complex, 2300 S. State St., have complained for years about police harassment. Residents have claimed that family and friends have been arrested and/or harassed on an ongoing basis. Last week a group of residents decided to videotape what had been happening to them, and Channel 5 investigative reporter Renee Ferguson aired the tape. Residents say the tape allegedly shows Chicago police officers strip searching young African-American men, pulling their pants down as children walk by.
The tenants said they were fed up with police actions, and since the airing of the video top brass from the Chicago Police Department have made some significant changes. Allegations of misconduct have led to a class-action lawsuit filed by tenants, who say innocent individuals are being arrested along with those who are guilty.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, a South Side resident, had said he wanted to bring attention to what was happening. On Tuesday, Oct. 9, Jackson along with West Side ministers Rev. Gregory Livingston, Rev. Ira Acree and other community leaders moved into the Harold Ickes Homes for the evening to highlight the problems tenants are having.
Jackson held an outdoor press conference prior to passing out bags of food to residents. During the press conference, a question was posed to Jackson if this was a "stunt."
Jackson replied, "It is a stunt to get your attention. Of course, we are dramatizing the problem. The last night on earth of Jesus the Christ, he stayed with Simon the leper. It was not a stunt; it was an act of morality.
"I choose to stay here to put focus on the families who stay. We choose to have ministers stay here. Dr. King didn't go to Memphis because he was a garbage worker, but because he cared. He didn't do the Montgomery bus boycott to ride the bus; he had a car. He did the boycott because he cared. I'm here because I care, and these ministers are here because they care. We have already galvanized services. Last week we met with Congressman Danny Davis and others. This is a concerted action to address all of these problems."
A reporter from the Austin Weekly News asked Jackson if he had ever used this type of event to highlight the plight of those living in public housing.
"This is not the first time I've stayed in the housing project," said Jackson. "Number one, I grew up in a housing project. The reason I knew I could live in the White House is because it was public housing, so I've always had a good sense of public housing. [President George W.] Bush lives in public housing too. He just has maids and cooks and security.
"When I ran for president, I stayed in people's homes at night. I wanted to force the national press to focus on poverty, illiteracy, disease, peace in the Middle East, freeing [South African political prisoner Nelson] Mandela and saving the children. I thought the best way I could make an impact in 1984-88 was to stay in the homes of poor people. I stayed in a different home every night. Very seldom did I stay in hotel rooms, because I thought we could not be effective unless we penetrated those at the base."
Tuesday night, Jackson stayed with Mrs. Bernice Sanders whom he had helped obtain an apartment over 30 years ago.
Also on Oct. 9, the Chicago Police Department announced the disbanding of its controversial Special Operations Section because of ongoing scandals.
The Ickes Homes were named after Harold L. Ickes, who was Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.