As men and women in suits, some carrying briefcases, streamed into the Cook County Criminal Court building on Wednesday, about a dozen activists nearby held protest signs decrying what they said was an unfair criminal justice system.
The group—Stop Mass Incarceration Network of Chicago—rallied at 26th Street and California Avenue as part of the 2014 National Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, which is holding events throughout October to highlight police misconduct and wrongful convictions, among other issues.
Among the protesters was Annabelle Perez, who spoke about her son, Jaime Hauad, who she said had been wrongfully convicted when he was 17. He has been in prison since 1997.
“His life was taken from him,” Perez said. “We need to stop this. Our kids are being taken from us. There are plenty of other mothers here, and we are all looking for justice.”
Others shared their personal stories of being incarcerated, describing periods of solitary confinement and other treatment they said was inhumane. At times during the rally, the group was heckled by passersby.
Perez’s son, who was convicted of murder, is seeking exoneration.
In Cook County, more people have been exonerated—83 since 1989—than in any other jurisdiction in the country, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, which is maintained by Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and the University of Michigan Law School.
A second rally was held in the evening. Participants gathered at the James R. Thompson Center on West Randolph Street and marched six blocks to the Metropolitan Correctional Center on West Van Buren Street.
[Photos by Grace Donnelly]