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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Statement on Chicago Disability Hate Crime

On Tuesday, January 3rd, a video was streamed on Facebook Live depicting a young man with cognitive disabilities being brutally beaten by a group of his peers.

It is not known for how long the young man was held, but during that time, documented by the video, the victim was tied up with his mouth taped shut, backed into a corner, repeatedly kicked and hit, and his scalp and clothes were cut. The video shows the captors laughing and shouting insults centering on the victim’s disability and race while inflicting this torture. It was later confirmed that the victim knew at least one of his captors, as they were classmates.

This is a hate crime on the basis of disability, and has now been formally recognized as such under Illinois law. We condemn this and any kind of violence, and applaud the swift action of the Chicago police department in bringing the perpetrators to justice. We urge other law enforcement agencies to follow the Chicago police department’s example regarding incidents of hate and violence on the basis of disability.

The attackers were two men and two women, all black, and the victim was white. While we react against this incident, sadly, we also recognize that brutality against disabled people of color is not always met with the same level of (justified) outrage that this incident has provoked. Racial justice cannot be separated from disability justice, as racism and ableism are intertwined. At NCIL, we work towards intersectionality every day, and we encourage you to amplify the voices of those who experience any form of violence including disabled people of color.

This is a cruel act of violence against not only this young man, but the disability community. Hate crimes are intolerable, and yet happen with frequency to our community. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, people with disabilities are over twice as likely to be the victims of hate crimes, and are more likely to be victimized by someone they know than people without disabilities. The rates of serious violent victimization – rape, sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated assault – are more than three times higher for persons with disabilities than for persons without disabilities. President Obama’s comment on the Chicago attack, naming these “hate crimes of the despicable sort…” falls short of expressing our frustration, outrage, and fear regarding the situation. This incident shines a rare spotlight on the targeted violence and abuse felt by people with disabilities on a daily basis.

This is a terrible blow against this young man, not only physically but mentally, and NCIL wishes to offer support to him, his family and any others who experience such terrifying and unjust situations.

We encourage you to seek support in this time and practice self-care. Disability, mental health, and abuse are all serious matters. If you or someone you know may be suffering from abuse, please use the resources below. Additionally, feel free to share these with your community. At NCIL, we strive every day to create a world where everyone can live safely and independently in their communities.

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