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Chicago protesters demand police reforms

Demonstrations follow the release of an ACLU report showing black Chicagoans disproportionately stopped by police

Three people were arrested Tuesday at a protest outside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office while demanding reforms to the nation's second largest police department, including an end to what they consider excessive use of stop-and-frisk searches.

A group of around 100 protesters — which included several clergy members — chanted "black lives matter," sang "We Shall Overcome" and lay down in front of the mayor's City Hall office until staff agreed to meet with some of them.

The protesters cited an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report issued Monday showing that black Chicagoans were subjected to 72 percent of all police stops, yet constitute just 32 percent of the city's population, the report said.

Chicago cops made such stops over 250,000 times last summer, according to the report. The ACLU looked at 250 "contact cards" that officers fill out after making such stops, and found that about half did not give a lawful reason for the stop.

On a per capita basis, Chicago police stopped 93.6 people per 1,000 residents, or more than four times New York's peak rate of 22.9 stops per 1,000 residents, which happened during the same four-month period of 2011.

People were far more likely to be stopped in predominantly black communities, and black pedestrians were more likely to be the target of stops in predominantly white neighborhoods, the study found. For example, black individuals accounted for 15 percent of the stops in the Jefferson Park area, even though they made up just one percent of its population.

The ACLU issued the report at a time of increased scrutiny of policing practices and nationwide protests over the shooting and chokehold deaths of unarmed black men. The deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and others sparked a nationwide protest movement aimed at reforming law enforcement and the justice system.

Besides ending stop and frisk, Chicago protesters also called for independent citizen oversight to review police misconduct and reforms to a pilot body camera program.

Charles Anderson, 37, said he realized police have to fight crime, but there are "different ways to do the same things" that are less abusive.

"They don't have to throw him up against the car and take his pants down to see if he is carrying drugs," said Anderson. "They don't have to throw a numerous amount of young men against a fence to find out their names."

In response to the ACLU report, Chicago police defended their tactics, saying it has improved training to make officers aware of its prohibition on racial profiling. Police also said that the racial breakdown of the stops made without making an arrest was closely aligned with the profiles of suspects identified by third parties in reports on criminal cases.

The three arrested Tuesday had disobeyed police orders to stay in a particular area during the protest. The mayor's office said it would provide a comment on its meeting with protesters later in the afternoon.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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