On July 20, 2016, the Let Us Breathe Collective created “Freedom Square” on a vacant lot across the street from Homan Square, the Chicago police facility infamous for allegations of illegal interrogations. Activists vow to remain at the encampment until officials withdraw a proposed ordinance that would expand the city’s hate crime laws to include police and other first responders. But the space also strives to support North Lawndale community members with resources and galvanize them around police accountability and neighborhood development.
“We think about the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and how he stayed in Lawndale when he came to Chicago to fight against housing discrimination,” said Erika Dickerson of the Let Us Breathe Collective, an activist group. “A lot of what we were doing initially came out of commemorating the 50th year anniversary of Freedom Summer Chicago.”
The sit-in grew out of planning for Black Youth Project 100’s national day of action, said Jennifer Pagán, an organizer with the group. “A tent city occupation was mentioned, but then we also realized that we were limited in the fact that we hadn’t really engaged the North Lawndale community … but Let Us Breathe had,” Pagán said. “So that was a moment when it was like, we have to team up and make this happen. We have to make this space happen.”