The southeast side rides for justice | News | Chicago Reader

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The southeast side rides for justice

Members of Bridges // Puentes wind through South Chicago and the east side.

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The crew of around 30 rode in on beach cruisers, steel tourers loaded with panniers, neon-orange BMX bikes, and flashy, well-oiled road machines. The only requirement was two wheels—skateboards also welcome—and a deep desire for justice for Vanessa Guillen and Breonna Taylor. Organized by Bridges // Puentes: Justice Collective of the Southeast, the “slow roll”-style ride echoed July’s protest ride against General Iron’s planned move to the east side. This time, the mission was opposition to violence against women, which organizers noted is often both state-sanctioned and disproportionately targeted at Black and Latina women.

Riders expressed immense pride in their strong community ties. They have mentored youth, raised money for sexual assault victims, and worked to provide mutual aid for their neighbors. Many have lived in South Chicago, the east side, Hegewisch, and the Bush for generations (community areas that some Chicagoans have never heard of, let alone stepped foot in). Over the years, however, they have witnessed disinvestment and widespread industrial pollution blight in the neighborhoods they hold dear. One activist, describing the lack of economic opportunity distributed throughout the area, quipped that violence is seemingly the only path toward steady income for young people. “Either join a gang, or join the army.” 

At the designated teach-ins along the ride route, activists rallied in parking lots, and a support crew fed and hydrated riders. Speakers shared testimonials about their experiences with racism and sexism, and as veterans and essential workers. Stops included the South Chicago Vietnam Vets Memorial, Calumet Park, and the Engine 74 Fire Station, where organizers honored Breonna Taylor’s service as an EMT. Sunday marked 149 days since her murder, with no charges against her killers yet filed. For more than 20 minutes after police fired five bullets into her, she received no medical attention. Green Card Vets members Carlos Luna and Samuel Corona led chants of “open up the cover-up!” in the quiet streets, referencing the months Vanessa Guillen’s family spent awaiting answers, as well as the military’s dismissal of any link between sexual harassment and her subsequent murder. 

At Eggers Grove, just down the road from the Indiana state line, the protest wound down with a stretching session in the grass. Participants scrawled messages of hope for the community in magic marker on artificial leaves, clipping them to a group art project. Refueled with horchata and empanadas, many then moved on to a protest scheduled at George Washington High School, where students have been organizing in opposition to police in schools. Others returned to their neighborhoods across Chicago—some riding from as far away as Pilsen and Logan Square—with hopes of returning next month, when organizers are planning another ride.   v

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“She Was Essential” art by Yulisa Baeza - RAVEN GEARY
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  • “She Was Essential” art by Yulisa Baeza
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