Race and poverty roundup: Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic protests continue, 6-year-old is handcuffed, officers who shot autistic boy cleared, and more...

After three nights, the tent city outside the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic is no more. Police evicted protesters trying to keep it and five other mental health facilities from closing by April 30. Despite this setback, protesters told The Chicago Reporter they plan to set up camp again across the street from the clinic. Bill Lichtenstein, the president of Lichtenstein Creative Media, writing in the Huffington Post called the action “the Montgomery and Stonewall of the Mental Health Movement.” Check out the Reporter’s coverage of the occupation from earlier this week.

How much of an issue would poverty be in this presidential election if 38 percent of white children were living in poverty? A big one, says the Chicago Reader. But since its 38 percent of African-Americans children below the poverty line–more than triple the number of white minors–it’s a forgotten issue. Oh, and don’t forget that 35% of Hispanic children under 18 are in poverty too. The Reader notes that the websites of neither President Barack Obama nor Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney mention child poverty at all. And living in poverty can often lead to behavior problems, less schooling, and more time unemployed when these kids grow up. We can’t wait for a compassionate electorate to tackle these problems, argues the article.

A kindergartener who threw a tantrum at school in Georgia was handcuffed and removed by police, but “the real story is this: many people are siding with the police,” reported the Los Angeles Times. Commentators have said that the 6-year-old girl was old enough to “know right from wrong,” and that the school took the right direction. Photos of the student show she is African-American. The case brings up previous research on the racial discipline gap, which found that low-income students of color receive harsher punishment for minor infractions.

Officers accused of shooting an autistic teenage boy on Chicago’s South Side were cleared of all wrongdoing this week. The crux of the controversy centers around whether the teen lunged at them holding a butter knife, as his parents have argued, or a steak knife, as the police alleged. Stephon Watts, 15, was killed in February 2011. The verdict, that the officers did not use unnecessary force on Watts, has sparked anger in the community. “”It was a wrongful, unnecessary use of force, and it killed him without a chance,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson.”

A series of video testimonials by Chicago-based Project NIA seeks to challenge the go-to way of dealing with troubled teenagers: calling the police. Chain Reaction, “a participatory research and popular education project,” supports community-based alternatives to calling the police. The early stages of the project documents encounters Chicago teenagers are having with the police.

Being a police target because of your race, age, or where you go to school also came up in the latest Teen Reporter blog, a Chicago Reporter blog written by Chicago Public Schools high schoolers. Noe Gil, who attends Uplift Community High School in Uptown, an area that experienced an outbreak of violence last fall, discussed preconceptions that people have of him and his classmates. “A lot of people think that kids from Uplift Community High School are responsible for the violence in Uptown, but that’s not true,” wrote Gil. “The violence is provoked by some community members affiliated with gang-related activity.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Wednesday that programs to keep homeowners in their homes will get a $20 million boost as part of a $26 billion settlement reached earlier this year with the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders. Madigan was one of the attorney generals leading the national lawsuit. Though the money doesn’t cover everyone affected by the mortgage crisis, it is expected to “fund legal assistance, financial counseling and will provide victims of predatory lending with mortgage relief.”

On April 17th, the U.S. Supreme Court took up two cases that challenge the harsh sentencing for crack cocaine offenses. Hill v. United States and Dorsey v. United States both target the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, the law under which disparities between sentences involving crack cocaine and cocaine were said to have a racial and class bias. The petitioners in the cases had committed offenses before the laws were reformed but, according to the Sentencing Project, were sentenced after it was enacted. The advocacy group is filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the petitioniers argument for a lighter sentence.




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