At least 100 protesters, most of them young people, gathered outside the home of Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb on Tuesday evening to demand that the village commit to defunding the police in 2021.
While protestors chanted right outside of his front door, with roughly a dozen sitting on the steps leading to his porch, the mayor presided over a virtual meeting of the village board where a resolution calling for measures similar to what the protesters were demanding was the first item on the table.
“We want him to pass the Freedom to Thrive resolution today,” said Chloe Leach, a member of the Revolutionary Oak Park Youth League, or ROYAL, an organization formed last year by middle- and high-school students.
The resolution that was up for a vote, which was sponsored by Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla, was not the Freedom to Thrive resolution, but included proposals similar to what the activists were demanding.
Freedom to Thrive Oak Park is an organization that was formed “in response to the Oak Park police racially profiling our Black and Latinx community members,” according to the organization’s website.
Walker-Peddakotla’s resolution called for decreasing the number of sworn police officers in the village over time and reallocating police funds toward social services.
By around 7 p.m., there were no uniformed police officers outside of the mayor’s home, although Oak Park Police Commander Shatonya Johnson, who was wearing plain clothes, talked with protestors gathered on the mayor’s porch.
A woman who lives across the street from the mayor confronted the protestors and asked them about their demands. She also criticized their tactics.
“I think they’re being very disrespectful by sitting on his porch,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
“I understand their need to protest, but they can do it from the parkway back. I’m not asking them to leave,” she said. “As you can see, no one is calling the police and telling them to leave, because we understand their anger and protest, what I’m trying to understand is what they’re asking for. To just say, ‘Defund the police,’ what does that mean? That’s all I’m asking.”
Later in the evening, Police Chief LaDon Reynolds spoke briefly to some protesters raising concern about damage to property in Abu-Taleb’s back yard.
“It is perfectly legal to protest but not to destroy personal property,” he said. Reynolds then departed.
Makayla Pye, 16, a junior at OPRF and one of the organizers, said protesters were “upset and disappointed by the message” of the defund police resolution being defeated by the village board.
“We are trying to have a conversation with the mayor,” she said. “We have tried to set up meetings. But we can’t be complacent. They can’t ignore people who live here.”
Pye said officials have laughed at their efforts.
“I feel ignored. That my voice does not matter. Young people of color are criminalized by police and residents” in Oak Park, she said.
With a drum, bullhorn, amplifier and disco ball, the protesters, mostly students from OPRF, talked, danced and mingled. Some protesters, young and older, collected trash on the lawn and washed the front door window of the mayor’s house. And at 9:30 p.m., an organizer used the bullhorn to close out the protest.
“Thank you. We have let our voices be heard,” she said. “This won’t be the last time you hear from the youth of Oak Park. Have a safe time getting home.”