Members of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network were among nearly 100 activists protesting at last week's meeting of the Chicago Police Board, adding gay bashing to the groups' long list of police brutality complaints.
More than 80 community organizations were represented at the Thursday, March 15, protest, held outside the police department headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan.
"The fish rots from the head," said CABN co-founder Andy Thayer. "This brutality, this corruption starts at the mayor's office because he tolerates it."
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After a series of speeches outside, protesters filed into the police board meeting, where several had signed up to publicly testify. In addition to Thayer and CABN members Jill Youmans and Bob Schwartz, the speakers included the victims of police brutality and corruption, the family members of victims and activists and advocates.
CABN, along with the international human-rights group Amnesty International, has taken up the cases of two Chicago men-;Freddie Mason and Jeffrey Lyons-;who claim police officers gay-bashed and assaulted them.
Youmans spoke on Lyons' behalf at the meeting, noting that the man's father was a police officer.
Police Supt. Terry Hillard denied allegations that the police department has been uncooperative in handling Lyons' case. "There's not a coverup on this," he said. "Those officers will be punished, but we have to wait until the investigation is complete. The investigation is almost finished."
While Thayer said he was disappointed in the reception activists received from Hillard and the Police Board, he was proud of the protesters. "I was very pleased with the militancy and the enthusiasm of the crowd," he said.
Earlier in the day Thursday, felony and misdemeanor charges were dropped against Thayer and fellow CABN member Michael Maltenfort for a February demonstration at City Hall.
Circuit Judge Gilbert J. Grossi denied a prosecution motion to continue the case after sheriff's deputies and a complaining witness failed to show in court for a second time. The charges stemmed from a Feb. 14 pro-gay marriage demonstration during which Thayer and Maltenfort attempted to chain shut the doors to Cook County Marriage License Bureau.
"Obviously, we're very pleased the charges are gone," Thayer told WCT. "It was a huge diversion from something we want and need to do."
But, he added, "We shouldn't have been facing felony charges in the first place. The danger in it is much more broad because it has a chilling effect on public protest of all kinds."