Matthew Kaplan Photography

East Side Bike Ride to End Youth Imprisonment - April 30th, 2021

"We are demanding the end to youth imprisonment, and to have the city invest in youth and community!" proclaimed the group Bridges//Puentes - Justice Collective of the Southeast, as they mounted their first protest bike ride of the year.

Starting in Chicago's Calumet Park, with presentations by Liberation Library, an organization "pushing for prison abolition one book at a time"; Final Five Campaign, a movement dedicated to closing the five remaining youth prisons in Illinois; and others; demonstrators then braved the chilly April evening on their bikes, most of the cyclists bearing placards with the names and ages of Chicago youths who have recently died in violent homicides.

After crossing the Calumet River on the Ewing Avenue Bridge, and passing by Steelworkers Park, the bike riders, with a car caravan following, pulled up at the community altar which Bridges//Puentes carefully maintains along a chain link fence near 93rd Street and Commercial Avenue. Already adorned with tributes to the murdered Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen, Adam Toledo, and "too many others", participants added to the doleful shrine by attaching the names of the violence victims with which they had ridden.

Avril Garcia, a student from the 10th Ward's George Washington High School, spoke to the group of her frustration that "The city is not investing in our schools. Our youths don't need more punishment, they need more empowerment!" She posed the question, "They say our youth is our future. Why are we getting killed before our life has begun?"

Earlier, Destiny Vasquez, another GWHS student, had addressed the issue of police officers in public schools, asking, "Why are we punishing kids this way? We could have more counselors in schools. Instead we have cops."

Ending the event as darkness closed in, a piñata was brought out for the children to batter, emblazoned with the number “1.6 Billion”, the amount which Bridges//Puentes asserts the city of Chicago spends yearly on its police department.

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