Jackson Visits Ickes


Earlier this year, Carl Jordan was visiting his mother, Betty Jordan, a senior citizen who lives in the Harold Ickes Homes. Carl Jordan had moved out of Ickes but often returned to see friends and family. As he left his mother’s apartment, Jordan said the police approached him on the floor where she lived, threw him against the wall and went into his pocket, taking his keys. The police then took Jordan back to his mother’s apartment, opened her door with the keys they had just taken from him and barged in, flashing lights, talking loudly and scaring his mother.

The incident was recorded on a questionnaire issued by Ickes residents Aaron Boyd and was one of the incidents that inspired Rev. Jesse Jackson and others to visit Ickes in early October to spotlight reckless police activity taking place at the development.

From left: 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell; Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. TK; and Tamara Holder outside of Ickes. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

After talking with the Jordan family and others on Oct. 4, Jackson and Operation Push organized a press conference on Oct. 5 so Chicago’s media could record the disturbing stories of police harassment and brutality in Ickes. Jackson later spent the night in an apartment in the 2240 S. State building.

The visit came at a time when the Chicago Police Department is facing criticism for brutality and corruption. Police officers have been videotaped beating people in bars. A full 1 out of 20 officers have had ten or more citizen complains levied against them over the last five years. Police are telling public housing residents to fill out “contact cards,” demanding their personal information.

Jackson said he was drawn to Ickes because he once lived in public housing himself. “I just wanted to sit in peoples’ apartments and meet people where they are suffering and with the force of the media, make the awareness of their suffering known,” the civil rights leader said.

Rev. Jackson brought with him lawyer Tamara Holder, who on the same day as the press conference returned from court with several residents of Harold Ickes, where they had won their case against trespassing charges issued by the police.

One of the plaintiffs, Ottinyse Brown, asked “How can you be trespassing on grounds where you live?” Those listening could only scratch their heads in amazement.

Another former Ickes resident, Keith Horton, was much relieved to talk of his experience with the police while walking down the fire lane in front of Ickes.

“[The police] proceeded to manhandle me. They jacked me up, took my bag with my medication, took it and threw it away. They robbed me,” Horton said.

Rev. Jackson opened his dialogue to the press with facts about the police that often go unnoticed.

“Justice! It is the job of the police to serve, protect and show justice to the people,” Jackson said. “Instead, they are engaged in illegal search and seizure as they issue warnings of trespassing, while former residents return to visit close relatives – mothers, grandmothers, sisters, brothers and children.”

Jackson said the police at Ickes were using “Gestapo-style tactics to put people on the run.”

It was a day for coalition. Ald. Pat Dowell expressed her desire to work with Jackson to make Harold Ickes a model for rehabilitation and not just demolition. Congressman Danny Davis expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the people in public housing in general and Ickes specifically, were being treated.

In the middle of all the strange new activity going on, Jackson announced he would be celebrating his birthday, and that he would be happy to celebrate with the people in Ickes by not only coming back on Oct. 9, but bringing with him enough food for 400 to 500 people. And the crowd did respond with cheers.

On Oct. 9, Jackson delivered on his promise of food by arranging for a huge truck to arrive at Ickes filled with 84 cases of vegetables, 21 cases of macaroni and cheese and 125 cases of turkeys, totaling 500 in all. Some of the residents were exhilarated while they carried, opened, packed, stuffed and stacked food items.

Later in the evening, after spending the remaining daylight hours talking to the media outside and to the residents and the children, Jackson retired to Ms. Laverne Sanders’ home for dinner and some well-deserved rest. After dinner, Jackson entertained more reporters.

As it happened, some of the people on the outside sent word that they would like for him to experience an evening on the benches in front of the buildings. But before Jackson could even leave the apartment, somebody got to fighting, and the entourage had to turn back until it was deemed safe to venture further.

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