Little Village organizers call for justice for Adam Toledo and other victims of police shootings

William Guerrero, better known as “The Kid from Pilsen,” raises his hands as the crowd chants “hands up, don’t shoot.” Valentina Pucarelli

More than two weeks after 13-year-old Little Village resident Adam Toledo was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer, protesters marched through the Logan Square neighborhood, calling for police reform.

Marchers gathered around the Illinois Centennial Monument, 3150 W. Logan Blvd., on Friday, April 16 carrying signs reading “Abolish the police” and “Justice for Adam,” following the release of a video showing the March 29 police chase and shooting of Toledo.

Thousands of protesters gathered at Logan Square Park on Friday, April 16, the day after police body cam footage was released showing 13-year-old Adam Toledo being fatally shot by Chicago police. Mengshin Lin

Reina Torres, a 16-year-old community organizer with GoodKids MadCity and The Pilsen Alliance who helped lead the protest on Friday and a vigil on Sunday, April 18, said Black and Brown youth came together to show “there is power to the people, and we are stronger than the people in power.”

“This protest was to show the injustice that these police do when it comes to our Black and Brown people,” Torres said. “We came together to show our respects to Adam Toledo, Anthony Alvarez and all the other Black and Brown folks.”

Anthony Alvarez’s family walked at the front of the April 16 march along with the families of other victims of police shootings. Valentina Pucarelli
Yaquelyn Ramos along with thousands of other protesters rested for a moment of silence during the march in the Logan Square neighborhood. Mengshin Lin

Torres said protesters demanded that Eric Stillman, the police officer who shot Toledo, resign; that Mayor Lori Lightfoot talk to and understand Chicago’s Black and Brown youth; and that resources, such as more funding for after-school programs, mental health clinics and medical clinics, be funded by the city.

According to a statement provided to ABC-7 news by Stillman’s attorney Tim Grace, “the juvenile offender had the gun in his right hand, came to a fence, looked at the officer which could be interpreted as attempting to acquire a target and began to turn to face the officer attempting to swing the gun in his direction.

Thousands of protesters march on West Diversey in the Logan Square neighborhood on April 16. Mengshin Lin
Protestors walk north down Milwaukee Avenue through the Logan Square neighborhood. K’Von Jackson

“At this point the officer was faced with a life threatening and deadly force situation,” according to the statement. “All prior attempts to deescalate and gain compliance with all of the officer’s lawful orders had failed.”

The body cam footage shows Toledo was empty handed when Stillman shot him in the chest.

The families of people fatally shot by Chicago police, like Alvarez, who died March 31, and Marc Nevarez, who died October 23, also attended the protest.

The mother of Marc Anthony Nevarez calls for justice for her son who was killed by Chicago police last October. K’Von Jackson
Chicagoans gathered at the Illinois Centennial Monument April 16 to show solidarity and support for victims of police shootings. K’Von Jackson

“There is no reason why a mother should be burying her kid,” said Sandra Nevarez, Marc’s mother. “Enough is enough. We need justice.”

Ana Solano, a Little Village resident and community organizer with the nonprofit Únete La Villita, said the protest’s organizers were very intentional about uplifting the families that have been affected by police violence. She said the community has their back and stands with them.

Edith Tovar, a Little Village Environmental Justice Organization community organizer, said Toledo’s death has shaken the Little Village community to the core.

“This was a young person,” Tovar said. “They were in seventh grade, and they were not given an opportunity to grow, to learn, to see what their life could have been.”

Many speakers, including Mark Clements, a survivor of police torture, called for justice for Adam Toledo and demanded that State’s Attorney Kim Foxx charge the police officer who shot Toledo with murder. K’Von Jackson

She said there is a stark difference between when a white man commits a crime versus when a Black or Brown man commits a similar crime or is accused of one.

There have been many instances in which white men who commit crimes are taken into custody alive, Tovar said, while Black and Brown children aren’t given that grace.

“They are seen as grown, dangerous men that should be killed, and I think it goes back to our communities not being funded correctly,” Tovar said.

Thousands gathered at Logan Square Park on Friday, April 16 to protest the killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by Chicago police last month. Mengshin Lin
A protester dressed up as “Police Bacon” on Friday, April 16 to demand justice for Adam Toledo, who was fatally shot by Chicago police last month. Mengshin Lin

Before the video of Toledo being shot by a police officer was released, Lightfoot asked for a peaceful response as Toledo’s family grieves, as reported by Block Club Chicago April 15.

According to Torres, the Friday event was peaceful until what was thought to be a loud taser sound was heard around 10 p.m., and youth organizers started running toward a large group of police by the Logan Square Blue Line station.

A Logan Square resident chants to support demonstrators below. Mengshin Lin
A woman waves a Mexican flag wearing a “Justice for Adam” hoodie. Mengshin Lin
A protester raises a skateboard in front of a CTA bus to stop traffic during the march for Adam Toledo in Logan Square on Friday, April 16. Mengshin Lin

In an email response to Chronicle questions, the Chicago Police Department had no information available about the event described by Torres.

Torres said she believes the police purposely made a taser sound to get the youth riled up.

“Nobody protects us like we protect us, so of course our youth were ready to throw down,” Torres said. “They were ready to protect one another.”

Chicago riot police push against protesters after thousands march in the Logan Square neighborhood on Friday, April 16. Mengshin Lin
A Chicago police officer attempts to stop media from taking photos during the arrest of a protester. Mengshin Lin

According to a CPD spokesperson, two people were arrested: Graham Lefauve, an 18-year-old Logan Square resident who allegedly spat on an officer, and Anthony McCollum III, 20, the son of Black Lives Matter Chicago’s executive director Amika Tendaji.

McCollum III was charged with a misdemeanor for reckless conduct for allegedly being “part of a large crowd observed pushing and shoving uniformed Chicago Police officers,” according to the CPD spokesperson.

“Cops are supposed to protect and serve,” Torres said. “They are hired to arrest—not murder—but in reality, they protect the rich, the white and the property, not our Black and Brown people.”

Pilsen native and artist Pablo Serrano painted this mural in honor of Adam Toledo by the spot where he was killed. Valentina Pucarelli
Little Village community members paid their respects to Adam Toledo by leaving flowers and candles near the place where he lost his life. Valentina Pucarelli

On Sunday, April 18, Little Village community members held a vigil in Douglass Park. Dixon Romeo, campaign director for United Working Families, an independent political organization run by Black, Latinx and women of the working class, said the goal of the vigil was to give people a space to focus on healing and work toward a better world as a community.

Irma Morales, a member of Únete La Villita, said the purpose of the vigil was to “ease the spirit” after such a large event two days prior.

Aztec dancers and mariachi musicians performed before Sunday’s peace walk in Little Village. Valentina Pucarelli
After an emotional mariachi performance for Toledo’s family, Little Village community members took a knee for five minutes in honor of Adam Toledo. Valentina Pucarelli

“It’s necessary to have emotional and mental healing spaces, as well as to know that there are people around us willing to support us physically and morally,” Morales said.

Later on Sunday, April 18, neighbors gathered in the spot Toledo was killed near the intersection of West 24th Street and South Sawyer Avenue and near the memorial created by artist Pablo Serrano for Toledo, for a peace walk with Toledo’s family to honor his life.