I finally crashed tonight. I got home & I was done. I knew that it would happen. For days, I’ve been operating at peak productivity. I haven’t slowed down. I’ve been consumed with opposing SB 1342, a mandatory minimum gun bill proposed by Rahm Emanuel and currently being considered by the Illinois legislature. Regular readers won’t be surprised at this. I’ve been ranting about this bill since January when it was first introduced as “HB2265.”
For the past few weeks, I’ve been told by various stakeholders that the bill was “a done deal.” “It’s definitely going to pass,” others have said. By this, they mean that the politicians have made deals with various interests and that public opposition is futile.
But I’ve learned something important in my many years of organizing: we must never give up. Why should we bother to advocate so consistently and comprehensively against a bill that is “a done deal?” It’s simple: SB 1342 hasn’t passed yet. It hasn’t come before the full House or Senate yet. And even if it does, it hasn’t been signed into law by the Governor yet. This is where things stand and so as long there isn’t a signed bill that has become law, we must resist. I would contend that our continued resistance will be needed even if the bill becomes law. Because, in the law, nothing is permanent. Everything can be changed.
Sheila Bedi wrote about the potentially destructive impact of SB 1342 in the Daily Beast over the weekend:
So by targeting neighborhoods for mass imprisonment, law enforcement officials have created a well-greased revolving door between prisons and our communities. And in so doing, they have destroyed the only things that have ever been proven to create safe neighborhoods. Emmanuel’s mandatory minimum proposal would only serve to fan the flames of Chicago’s failed prison and policing initiatives. Thousands of young, mostly African-American men would be funneled into already overcrowded prisons.
Once there, they will languish behind bars—denied access to even the most basic educational programs which have been defunded because of budget shortfalls. Many will endure the brutal violence and sexual assaults that are endemic in a prison environment. Most will spend their three years behind bars in forced idleness. This is the case not only in Chicago, but across the country.
Writing at the Black Youth Project, Aaron Talley offered his thoughts about how #SB 1342 would impact young black people like himself:
And so let’s be clear, like the “war on drugs,” this law will disproportionately criminalize Black and Brown bodies. Communities of color who are already targets of racial profiling and brutal policing will continue to be fed into prisons, rather than being met with compassionate and creative solutions to solving the interweaving problems of violence and poverty. If there is ample evidence that suggests that this mode of punishment does not work, why then would it continue to be employed?
The consequences of mass incarceration are not academic or abstract to me. They are all too real. I see its ravages every single day in my work with young people. It’s impossible then for me to sit idly by in the face of another structural assault on the lives of black and brown young people.
This evening, dozens of other people showed up to say that they too refuse to accept another law that will do further violence to our young people and to our communities. Bundled up in the Chicago cold, holding signs, flashlights, and lightboards, Chicagoans of all stripes said “NO TO MANDATORY MINIMUMS.” Together, we stood as testaments of the refusal of so many people in this city to give up even when we’re told that things are “done deals.”