CHICAGO – The city cited the Chicago Freedom School after they served protesters food and water last month in the Loop.
The youth group was sent a cease-and-desist by the city after Chicago police noticed they were serving pizza to protesters on May 30.
“They were dressed in SWAT gear. They looked like police and they came and said ‘we need to take a walk through the building,'” said CFS wellness director Jacqulyn Hamilton.
She said at around 11 p.m., Chicago police showed up to their building, located in the 700 block of South State Street, when she was the only one there.
A spokesperson for the city’s Business Consumer Protection Department said CPD notified them that the organization was serving large quantities of food without a proper retail food establishment license.
“We do not commercially prepare or serve food. The food that they saw was literally from the pizza place downstairs,” Hamilton said.
Student Essence Gatheright sent out a tweet encouraging people to come to CFS because many protesters were still stuck in the Loop after the city shut down the CTA.
“I felt a little bad because I had sent out the tweet. And the Tweet went viral,” said Gatheright.
The school is modeled after the Mississippi Freedom Schools of the 1960s and serves as a safe space for young people, ages 14-21, across the city.
Open since 2007, it teaches young people how to be active in bringing social, economic and political change.
“It’s just always felt like a space where I could just always completely be myself,” said student Jermaine Wright.
Now, the organization’s leadership fear it could be shut down over the cease-and-desist citation.
“They said if they come back here and they find food, they will arrest staff and shut down, shut down the organization,” Hamilton said.
The city said the cease-and-desist order does not impact CFS’ existing license. It means it just cannot prepare or serve food.
Read the city’s statement below.
“On Saturday, May 30, BACP was notified by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) of an establishment that was preparing and serving large quantities of food without the proper retail food establishment license. This license is required as a public health measure to ensure that any establishment that prepares or serves food does so in a safe manner, and BACP conducts thousands of these types of investigations each year. As is standard protocol, the Department took appropriate action by issuing them a Cease and Desist Order for this activity.”