‘Just because we’re black, they automatically assume we’re criminals’

Demonstrators protested racially unjust marijuana arrests at the Chicago Police Department headquarters on Tuesday. [Photo by Emily Jan]

Demonstrators protested racially unjust marijuana arrests at the Chicago Police Department headquarters on Tuesday. [Photo by Emily Jan]

Two years ago this month, Chicago jumped on the bandwagon to decriminalize pot—sort of.

That’s when the City Council gave police the green light to issue tickets rather than arresting people for having a relatively small stash of marijuana—15 grams, which amounts to roughly 25 joints. Police could still opt to make arrests, though. And they have—particularly among African Americans.

Black males accounted for the vast majority of the roughly 16,000 marijuana-related arrests last year, making pot the No. 1 reason that Chicagoans have been thrown into the misdemeanor courts.

While police are quick to make the arrests on the streets, they often fail to appear in the courtroom. Last fall, the Reporter found that eight out of every 10 cases end up tossed. The charade of justice doesn’t come without a cost. The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy estimates that taxpayers spent at least $25 million but as much as $115 million on pot arrests last year. 

“Just because we’re black, they automatically assume we’re criminals,” 23-year-old Huey Amaru said. He’s one of a group of youth activists dubbed Black Youth Project 100 that visited police headquarters yesterday calling on McCarthy to put an end to the arrests, which he says amount to racial profiling that breeds mistrust of police. We were there to hear what they had to say. Watch for yourself:

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