Matthew Kaplan Photography

Justice for Miguel Vega - Protest and March in Pilsen - Chicago 9/5/20

Miguel Vega was shot and killed by police on Monday evening, August 31st, in Chicago's rapidly gentrifying Pilsen community. According to news reports, the 26 year old father of two was standing with a few other men near 19th Street and Throop, when police drove up in answer to a "suspicious persons" call from someone in the neighborhood. A witness asserts that shots were fired in the direction of the officers and police returned fire. Miguel Vega was hit, and passed away soon after in Stroger Hospital.

Saturday afternoon, September 5th,  a crowd of Mr. Vega's family, friends and concerned citizens gathered at 18th Street and Loomis to demand answers about the killing from the Chicago Police Department. To date, the body camera footage of the incident has not been released and details on the shooting have been sparse. Two of Mr. Vega's younger brother's spoke to the assembly, expressing grief and anger at their family's devastating loss. Anger at the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago news media, was a common theme at the protest, as speakers accused both those institutions of misrepresenting Miguel Vega's role in the tragic altercation.

Gentrification was also decried by some of the protestors, who worry that the fabric of this close knit Mexican-American community is being sacrificed to the greed of real estate developers bent on attracting affluent young urbanites to the near-southside neighborhood. One of the speakers asked Pilsen residents to repeat a pledge not to immediately call the police on Black or Brown people who "look suspicious".

Prayers, song, and a ceremonial dance in mourning for Mr. Vega, were interwoven during the protest with calls to "Say his name!"; "Defund the police!" and "Release the footage". A passionate march through Pilsen's evening streets ensued, followed by squads of Chicago police on bicycles and in riot gear. No violence or rioting were in evidence.

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