On Saturday night’s march around and within the Loop, a now infamous incident occurred when a white Chicago Police van accelerated into the crowd of protesters walking west on the Jackson Boulevard bridge, just beyond Franklin Street. Witnesses at the scene, myself included, saw the van conspicuously speed up while nearing the east side of the bridge.
It had been moving slowly, then gained speed as some in the crowd began to let it pass. A handful of protesters, three of whom told the Occupied Chicago Tribune they were fearful for their friends and fellow demonstrators behind them, tried to slow the van down by pushing back on its hood. It was then that the driver accelerated in full, reaching a completely unacceptable speed while still in the midst of the crowd. One protester, James “Jack” Amico was struck, thrown to ground, and treated for a concussion at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
NBC 5 Chicago sparked the asinine rabble, which continues to claim that the hit protester was faking, by posting this video, which shows an uninjured protester skidding along the hood of the van. The cameraman was far east of the bridge, where the actual incident had occurred. The protester featured in NBC 5′s coverage is not Amico. At the time of that video, Amico was lying on the street, surrounded by his girlfriend Lauren DiGioia and a team of street medics assessing his condition.
A better, though still murky, video of a protester getting hit and going down can be seen here (between the 18-21 second marks).
In short time, the 1% Chicago Tribune, along with other mainstream media, filed in lock-step behind CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy’s story: that the protester faked his injury, that someone had punched the driver in the head, giving him a concussion, that protesters attacked the van, and that the videos, though unclear, seem to confirm this official narrative.
The story, like many of McCarthy’s this weekend (along the lines of “That wasn’t blood gushing out of a blunt-force head wound, it was red paint!”), smelled like the sweaty taint of a riot cop after Sunday’s 90-degree march. For one, I didn’t see a single police van driving around with its windows rolled down. Something of the spectacle of force is lost when a sergeant lets the breeze run through his hair. And certainly, if a cop driving through a sea of demonstrators doesn’t think to roll up his window, what appeared to be a concussion to McCarthy may be a simpler condition: That cop really is just that dumb.
But what’s missing from all the news reports is Amico’s story. Before leaving Chicago Monday night, he spoke with the OCT. His Northwestern Memorial Hospital bracelet was still on his wrist.
Amico approached the van when, he says, he saw his friend standing, unaware, with his back to it. Amico was hit in the chest and fell hard, slamming his head onto the pavement.
“It stomped on the gas the second I stepped in front. It was intentional,” he told OCT. “Mind you, they sped off after this. It was a hit and run.”
Amico and eyewitnesses say that it was Van #6751. Scott Ando of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) confirmed that there was an ongoing investigation into the incident, but said it was strict policy that no other information be released until the allegation is “sustained.” When it is, it will appear on the IPRA website. Anyone with information about the incident can file a complaint there as well.
After medics evaluated him at the scene, an ambulance drove Amico and his girlfriend Lauren DiGioia, accompanied by a Chicago police officer, to Northwestern Memorial. The police officer handcuffed him to his bed, and according to Amico, questioned him relentlessly.
Amico refused to speak to anyone but his lawyer. He asked what he was being charged with and was told “assault on a police officer.” Amico continued to refuse to speak, while the police officer and another unidentified man continued to come into his room every five to ten minutes, demanding a statement.
A spokesperson for Northwestern Memorial confirmed Amico had been “treated and released,” but couldn’t give any more details.
When he asked for water, he says the police officer told the nurse not to give it to him. “They refused food and water the whole time I was there.” Right before discharge, the officer informed him he was no longer being charged, but said he couldn’t leave until he gave a statement about what happened. Amico told the officer, “I was hit by a police officer,” and nothing more. The officer, according to Amico, didn’t write it down.
“I was and still am an emotional wreck. It gave me flashbacks to 2006,” he said, when his 10-year-old brother was hit and killed by a car. “I was crying and distraught.”
That night, he and DiGioia recuperated at the convergence space on Wellington, and believe they were followed by undercover police on their way back. But they were on the streets again the next day. ”I didn’t stop, I don’t stop,” he said. Amico plans to press charges.
By Joel Handley