BLACK VOICES
11/07/2014 03:39 pm ET Updated Nov 07, 2014

Families Of Chicago Police Shooting Victims: 'We Just Want Answers'

A number of family members and supporters of four black youths fatally shot by Chicago police are calling for change.

The group gathered Wednesday night outside a police station in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood, commemorating the birthday of one of the victims and demanding the department modify the way it handles police-involved shootings.

Rekia Boyd, who would have turned 24 on Wednesday, was fatally shot by off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin in March 2012. Servin has since been charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct, and will be due in court when his trial begins Dec. 3.

Chicago police and those close to Boyd offer disparate accounts of what happened the night of Boyd's shooting. While police argue that the off-duty officer "feared for his life" and acted in self-defense, Boyd's friends and family say she was an unarmed, innocent bystander killed without justification.

Addressing the crowd outside the police station Wednesday night, Boyd's brother Martinez Sutton spoke emotionally about his sister's slaying and expressed frustration that Servin has been put on paid desk duty since he was indicted last November.

"If I was wanted for a murder, I would be behind bars right now until I proved my innocence," Sutton said. "But if one of these officers takes away one of our lives, they get a cushy job, probably at the 311 center, behind a desk. … It's like a damn promotion. Are you trying to tell us our lives are not worth anything?"

"It's a slap in the face," he continued. "All we want is a little bit of justice. If you want peace, then give us justice."

The demonstrators are specifically pushing for Servin's charges to be upgraded to second-degree murder, according to a news release.

William Calloway, director of Christianaire, a faith-based social justice group that organized the demonstration, called for Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy's resignation.

In addition, the demonstrators called for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to look into the CPD's use of deadly force against black Chicagoans, for the Department of Justice to investigate the deaths of all individuals killed by CPD officers and for the creation of an elected "civilian police accountability council" to assist the department.

Other family members of police shooting victims spoke at the Wednesday rally: Panzy Edwards, the mother of victim Dakota Bright; Sharon White, grandmother of DeSean Pittman; and Dorothy Holmes, the mother of Ronald Johnson. Bright was 15 when he was fatally shot by Chicago police in November 2012. Pittman was 17 when he was killed by police in August. Johnson, 25, was fatally shot by police in October.

Police have said Bright, Pittman and Johnson were all armed and that officers shot the men in self-defense, though friends and family members contest those claims.

"We just want answers and we want it to stop," White said Wednesday.

The Chicago Police Department did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

The rally follows the release of an activist report alleging the CPD has engaged in "ongoing, pervasive" violence targeting the city's youth of color. The report pointed out that black Chicagoans are 10 times more likely than their white peers to be shot by a police officer.

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