This is Why We Don’t Talk to You: A very short critique of mainstream media’s bias towards police and criminalizing Black activists

We, as activists and organizers, rarely call out a reporter, but when people that we trust, and have good relationships with, take notice of how news platforms are being utilized to get activists arrested and further the CPD’s agenda, we must speak out. There is a trend and documented incidents of coverage that is biased towards police that is extremely harmful to activists.

Many Chicago journalists are fair and write balanced coverage. However, when activists are warned about which individuals might cause them harm, or land them in jail, we must take action and protect ourselves. Arrests of local, Black activists, who are clearly visible leaders in the movement against police violence in Chicago, have absolutely been aided by misleading photos by mainstream media.

Yesterday afternoon, a lawyer who wishes to remain unidentified, warned Chicago’s activist community about Peter Nickeas, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. The lawyer stated that he noticed Nickeas and his tweets about Malcolm London during the Laquan McDonald protests back in November 2015. That night, Malcolm London was arrested, and Nickeas’ tweets featured Tribune photos that not only showed a biased angle, but clearly an angle that aids CPD in their further criminalization of young, Black people and utilizes the “hyper-aggressive” stereotype of Black people for clicks. Last week, the same lawyer witnessed similar tweets and coverage from Peter Nickeas during the Taste of Chicago shutdown action, and then created a meme to go along with his warning to us. Tweets from Nickeas supported the narrative that Green was hitting Cmdr. George Devereaux, whereas video now surfaced showing that Green was actually being pulled down from a barricade, courtesy of the Chicago Reader.

While the lawyer indeed incorrectly identified Peter Nickeas as a photographer for the Tribune, Nickeas’ does in fact cover protests when the Tribune asks him to, and shares those photos paired with his own reporting, supporting the trend of coverage that is biased towards policing and anti-Blackness.

Past tweets from Peter Nickeas, such as sharing the pro-police article “Why become a Cop” by Chicago Tribune reporter John Kass on July 8, 2016, sharing commentary on how activists never go to actions on the south side (false), how “positive loitering” is a positive thing (false — it is steeped in anti-Blackness and internalized racism), and his lack of a deep analysis around the systemic roots of crime in poor, Black and Brown neighborhoods within his crime coverage, support the lawyer’s belief that he is a reporter that is not to be trusted by the Chicago activist community during this heightened moment in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Peter Nickeas is just one, small example of the ways in which mainstream media, like the Chicago Tribune, can be irresponsible, distort reality, and uphold white supremacy.

Monica Trinidad is an artist, activist and organizer in Chicago who grew up in South Chicago and the East Side. All views are personal and not associated with any public entity.