FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Page May, We Charge Genocide, 802-324-7751, page.
Justice for Stephon: A Freedom Ride for #BlackLivesMatter
Day-Long Action from Chicago to Calumet City to Reclaim Black History Month and Demand Justice for Stephon Watts.
CHICAGO 1/28 — On Sunday, February 1st, a Freedom Ride caravan will travel from Chicago to Calumet City to rally, march, and hold a vigil to honor Stephon Watts and support his family. The event will begin with a press conference at 11am at the Village Leadership Academy, 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd.
February 1st marks the three-year anniversary of Stephon’s murder by the Calumet City police. Stephon was a 15-year-old with autism who was killed in his home. The Freedom Ride also marks the beginning of Black History month, and is being organized to reclaim the history of a people who resist and love in the face of overwhelming oppression.
After a morning rally and press conference, a fleet of buses and cars will drive together from Chicago to Calumet City, singing freedom songs and building community along the way. Upon arrival, participants will march thee miles through Calumet City, visiting Stephon’s former school and holding a rally and memorial in front of the Calumet City Police Department.
“What happened to Stephon Watts is part of a larger, national crisis: Half of the people killed last year by police had a mental health disability. As part of the Black Lives Matter movement, we must understand and draw attention to the criminalization of disability and how it intersects with the criminalization of race, gender, sexuality and poverty,” says Page May, an organizer with We Charge Genocide.
“This Sunday, we will honor the memory of Stephon Watts and support his family on the anniversary of his death. We will also lift up the names of others with disabilities who have been killed by the police. We do this for Stephon, his family, and each other.”
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1553848981561624/
Freedom Ride Schedule ~ Sunday, February 1st
Statement from Attorney Anthony Peraica
The tragic death of a 15 year old Stephon Watts was avoidable. Officers Haynek and Coffey of the Calumet Park Police Dept. shot and killed Stephon right in front of his father. The officers acted in a completely unprofessional, intentional manner, putting themselves and members of the Watts family in grave danger.
They caused Stephon to die needlessly. Knowing about Stephon’s autism disability from their two previous visits to the Watts house, they nevertheless proceeded to antagonize Stephon putting him in a closed environment under severe stress.
When Stephon tried to exit the confined space, Haynek shot him in the chest. As Stephon fell to the ground, Coffey shot him in the back.
This is yet another outrageous example of bad policing practices that have caused a death of a young disabled person.
When are police going to stop shooting? When are they going to start respecting life? When are they going to learn that proper policing methods are designed to preserve life, not end it?
All of you are here today to draw attention to a spree of police killings of innocent people who did not need to die. Stephon did not need to die. Watts family did not need to be destroyed.
All of us must hold police accountable and put pressure on those departments, like the Calumet City, who act with reckless disregard for the safety of citizens.
Your protest today is one way to hold police accountable. Our court system is another way. Political pressure is another.
On behalf of the Watts family, I thank you for all that you do.
Anthony J Peraica & Associates, Ltd
5130 South Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL 60632