Chicago Crusader 2015 Year in Review
Another shooting, another lawsuit and another problem for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
On Monday, Dec. 28, the father of Quintonio LeGrier—one of two people fatally shot by a Chicago police officer over the weekend—filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, claiming police used “excessive and inappropriate deadly force.”
In the lawsuit, Antonio LeGrier alleges that his son “never posed a danger or threat of harm to any Chicago police officer before he was shot” inside their home in the 4700 block of West Erie Street in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood.
Police said an officer shot and killed Quintonio, a 19-year-old engineering student, after he became combative. Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five who lived downstairs from LeGrier’s father, was shot and killed. Police acknowledge the shooting of Jones was an accident.
The controversial shooting created more problems for Emanuel in his efforts to rebuild trust in the Black community. On Monday, the mayor cut his vacation short and returned to Chicago to deal with fallout.
The shooting was one of several events that marred the holiday weekend for Chicagoans.
On Sunday, Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon died. He was 83. His death is the latest loss in the year where Chicago and America lost some of its prominent Black leaders, educators, sports figures, and activists.
In the Black community, 2015 was also a year of triumphs, activism and controversy, but the biggest news event of them all—the Laquan McDonald case—continues to jeopardize the careers of several prominent officials and is likely to impact the future of the city and its police department.
As many usher in 2016 with toasts, the Chicago Crusader chronicles some of the major headlines in the Black community.
Bruce Rauner sworn in as Illinois governor
On Jan. 12 in Springfield, Rauner was sworn in as the 42nd governor of Illinois and promised to fix the state’s crippling financial problems. In his first year in office, Rauner would disappoint many Black leaders and generate heavy criticism for trying to cut critical social and low-income programs that have helped the Black community.
City Council approves land for Obama Library
The City Council approved 21 acres of land for the President Bar- ack Obama Presidential Library on Jan. 23, hoping to lure the facility to either Washington Park or Jackson Park. The vote drew protests from activists who said the library should not be built near the University of Chicago until the school commits to building a Level 1 Trauma Center on the medical campus.
Black-owned Highland Community Bank closes
The Highland Community Bank, a 40-year-old Black-owned institution, was closed by the FDIC on Jan. 23, becoming the first Black-owned bank to fail in 2015. Regulators said Highland had nearly $54 million in deposits and nearly $55 million in assets. The closing left Chicago with only two Black-owned banks: Seaway and Illinois Service Federal.
Jackie Robinson West (JRW) stripped of Little League title
The baseball team that won the hearts of celebrities, Black leaders and Mayor Rahm Emanuel lost the Little League World Series title on Feb. 11, after neighboring Evergreen Park Little League accused the team of using players who did not live within the league’s boundaries. An investigation later revealed there were only five players who were eligible to compete on the Jackie Robinson West team. The title was awarded to the team from Las Vegas, which Jackie Robinson West defeated in the U.S. championship. JRW sued to regain the title, but news reports say team officials want to drop their lawsuit.
Black voters propel Garcia into mayoral run-off
Mayoral candidate and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (7th) on Feb. 24 forced a run-off with mayoral incumbent Emanuel after taking 20 percent of the vote in the city’s predominantly Black wards. Three days later, lawyers for Laquan McDonald’s family approach the city, seeking $16 million for the wrongful death of the 17-year-old.
Former CSU students files federal lawsuit against school
Willie Preston and Brittany Bailey filed a federal lawsuit against Chicago State University for allegedly violating their freedom of speech. The suit alleges the university interfered with the election of Bailey and Preston to the Student Government Association to prevent them from advocating for students and voicing their opinions about school policies.
Emanuel trounces Garcia in run-off for mayor
After heavy campaigning in the Black community, Emanuel cruised to a second term as mayor of Chicago. Emanuel won by taking nearly 56 percent of the vote. After his victory, Emanuel said being forced into a run-off showed him he needed to listen more and talk less and perhaps change what many complained about, his abrasive style of leadership—behavior that turned many against him. Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) escaped an upset bid by challenger Marvin McNeil. Ald. Natasha Holmes (7th), Emanuel’s hand-picked alderman, lost to challenger Greg Mitchell.
Laquan McDonald’s family settles for $5 million
On April 15, the City Council approves a $5 million settlement with Laquan McDonald’s family. The amount is significantly less than the $16 million the family sought in February. The agreement requires that the video remain sealed until investigations are complete.
Suit filed to stop Chicago police “stop and frisk” policy
The lawsuit, which was filed by several Chicago Black residents on April 21, called for the city to immediately end a controversial police tactic that critics say damages relations between police and the community. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a report said Blacks accounted for three-fourths of some 250,000 “stop and frisk” incidents with police. On Aug. 7, Chicago police and the ACLU reached a historic agreement to end the practice, but routine independent evaluations of policing will be made as part of the deal.
Chicago picked as site of Obama Presidential Library
Emanuel made the announcement at the Gary Comer School on May 12 stating Blacks will benefit by having a historical museum in the heart of the South Side, but some leaders worry that the library will be another way for the University of Chicago to expand its ownership of property in Hyde Park.
Spike Lee begins filming “Chi-Raq” under heavy criticism
The legendary filmmaker gained support from Saint Sabina’s pastor Father Michael L. Pfleger and dozens of residents from the South Side. Lee was criticized by Emanuel and his ally, Ald. Will Burns (4th). Both wanted to block $3 million in tax breaks to stifle production, but the movie went on as scheduled and made its debut in theaters on Dec. 4.
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigns amid federal probe
The announcement was made on June 1. In a letter to Emanuel, Byrd-Bennett said she had become a “distraction” and resigned as a federal official investigated her role in a $20.5 million no-bid contract to Wilmette-based
SUPES Academy, where she once worked. She was indicted on corruption charges on Oct. 8 and pleaded guilty on Oct. 13. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors have agreed to seek a sentence of about seven-and-a-half years in prison.
Chicago Crusader celebrates 75th Anniversary with gala
The Who’s Who in Chicago’s Black community were among some 500 people celebrating the newspaper’s 75th birthday on June 6 at the Loews Hotel in Chicago. Champagne flowed and guests mingled before controversial speaker Michael Eric Dyson gave a rousing keynote address to an enthusiastic crowd.
Blacks hospitalized after vicious mob attack
In a Chicago Crusader exclusive, two Blacks were hospitalized with gruesome stab wounds after they were attacked in the early morning hours on May 30, by 10 whites at Taylor-Lauridsen Park in Canaryville. Kristina and Marcus Walton befriended several whites before the mob attack began 30 minutes later. The suspects: Kevin Hoynes, 21; Courtney Vega, 19; David Rice, 18; and Joya Urbikas, 18, were all charged with two counts of aggravated assault and await trial. Vega is still in jail and is unable to post bond.
CPS crisis grows as mayor makes $634 million pension payment
Amid threats of mass layoffs in Chicago Public Schools, Emanuel made a critical $634 million pension payment by the June 30 deadline as the district struggled under a $1 billion deficit. Black lawmakers joined Rauner in rejecting Emanuel’s plea to push back the deadline. Emanuel threatened the Chicago Teachers Union with 1,400 layoffs, but held off on the plan. Six months later, the CPS teachers are still without a contract. In August, CPS approved a $5.7 billion for the 2016 budget that includes a $480 million shortfall. CPS officials are hoping Rauner will bail out the district with a loan. If that doesn’t happen, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said 5,000 teachers will be laid off by the end of the year.
Sandra Bland dies after confrontation with police officer
The Naperville native was stopped by Texas Officer Brian Encina July 10 for allegedly making an improper lane change. Bland was jailed after a heated argument with Encina. A video of the incident by a bystander was posted on YouTube. Three days after she was jailed, Bland was found dead in her cell. Officials said Bland was found hanging in a “semi-standing” position. An autopsy report also said Bland committed suicide. The incident drew protests in Chicago and in Texas. Hundreds of mourners packed Bland’s funeral on July 22 at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle.
On Aug. 4, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Encina and Texas officials saying they “acted recklessly” when they jailed her daughter. The trial date for the lawsuit has been set for Jan. 23, 2017. On Dec. 21, a grand jury in Texas declined to indict Encina and jail officials on murder charges.
31st Street Beach named after Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs
The Chicago Park District on Aug.12, voted 4-0 to rename the 31st Street Beach after the Black pioneer and educator who founded the DuSable Museum and the South Side Community Art Center. She died in 2010 at 95. An official dedication was held at the beach as community leaders prais- ed Burroughs efforts in promoting Black culture and history. She would be the first and only Black person to have one of Chicago’s 26 beaches named after her.
Aunt Jemima’s grave found in Oak Woods Cemetery after nearly 100 years
In a Chicago Crusader exclusive, the grave of Nancy Green, the original Aunt Jemima icon, was located in Oak Woods Cemetery where it remained unmarked for 92 years. During the Jim Crow era, Green was an American success story. She signed a lifetime contract with the Quaker Oats Company after selling 50,000 pancake mixes at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Green died in 1923. Oak Woods Cemetery did not allow Blacks to be buried on its grounds, but prominent Blacks, like Green, had white connections that arranged their interment.
Chicago marks 60th Anniversary of Emmett Till
On Aug. 28, dozens of Black leaders marked the brutal death of Emmett Till with speeches, forums and a procession to Burr Oak Cemetery, where the 14-year-old was buried after an emotional funeral at Roberts Temple Church of God in Bronzeville. Mourners gasped as they viewed Emmett’s badly disfigured body which had been displayed in Jet magazine and other national and international publications. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, wanted an open-casket to show the world what happened to her son.
Hunger strike force officials to reopen Dyett High School
The “Dyett 15” ends their hunger strike after forcing Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools to reopen Dyett High School as an arts and technology-focused, open-enrollment school next year in Washington Park. The hunger strike lasted 34 days and gained national attention. Protesters joined the hunger strikers in shutting down a budget hearing where Emanuel was forced to leave the building with help of a police escort.
Pilgrim Baptist Church announce they will not rebuild
After criticism, lawsuits and a petition by residents, the church on Sept. 3 announced it will not restore their 116-year-old building in Bronzeville. It was nearly destroyed when a fire ripped through the landmarked in 2005. Church officials said they could not come up with the money to pay for the multi-million dollar restoration costs. On Dec. 8, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said she is preparing to take action against Pilgrim Baptist Church after the church failed to respond to a 90-day deadline to submit plans for the building’s remains at 3301 South Indiana Avenue.
Chicago organizations marked 20th Anniversary of “Million Man March”
Chicagoans traveled to Washington to hear Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan mark the 20th Anniversary of his “Million Man March” in front of the Capitol Building. With police shootings ripping through major cities, hundreds of thousands from various ethnic groups came to the nation’s capitol to demand justice and equal economic opportunities in the work force.
Chicago stunned after 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee is executed in an alley
The murder angered and shocked Chicago, a city known for its recent shootings and drive-by killings. This one was different. Tyshawn was just a boy who police say was targeted and lured to an alley where he was shot multiple times, including a fatal shot to his head. Hundreds turned out for his funeral as a throng of local and national media stood outside at Saint Sabina on Nov. 10. In a shocking Chicago Crusader exclusive, Tyshawn was the latest victim in a string of retaliations between gangs of which his father, Pierre Stokes, allegedly belongs. Police later arrested Tyshawn’s alleged killer, Corey Morgan, whose brother was murdered before Tyshawn was killed.
Wendell Phillips High School makes history
The Wendell Phillips High School football team won the first state championship in Chicago Public League history after they crushed their opponents from Alton, IL over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Wildcats have several players who will play in college and their win puts CPL football on the map. What the young African-American team accomplished was something that can inspire other youth in the community.
Laquan video sparks protests, changes in Chicago police
On Nov. 19, a Cook County Judge orders Chicago to release the video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald after journalist Brandon Smith sues city. Hours before the video was released on Nov. 24, Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder—13 months after the crime was committed.
Anger boiled over as thousands watched Van Dyke shoot 17-year- old McDonald 16 times at 41st and South Pulaski. The case exposed years of frustration in the Black community and thrust Chicago into the national spotlight on police shootings. Protests were held throughout Chicago from police headquarters in Bronzeville to the Magnificent Mile, where stores were forced to close on Black Friday. At City Hall, protesters repeatedly demanded Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign.
University of Chicago announces new Trauma Center
After years of protests by Chicago Black youth and other groups, the University of Chicago has relented to the pressure and announced they will build an adult Level I trauma center on their Hyde Park campus. It is a victory for residents of the South Side, who have been asking for an adequate center for years. But perhaps more importantly, the victory has ushered in a new form of community leadership, one that is coming from young people fed up with traditional leadership and its ineffectiveness.
Fallout from Laquan video continues throughout city
On Dec. 1, Emanuel forms a “police accountability” task force—one day before firing Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy—saying the top cop had been a “distraction.” The First Deputy Superintendent was appointed interim superintendent while a nationwide search to replace McCarthy is done.
On Dec. 7, The U.S. Justice Department announces a long-awaited civil rights investigation into Chicago Police Department practices, including use of force and its handling of misconduct complaints against officers.
At a special city council meeting on Dec. 9, Emanuel apologizes for not dealing with the problems in the Chicago Police Department sooner, but many in the city do not trust the mayor. More protests erupt in the Loop, with a few hundred demonstrators demanding that the mayor resign.
Since the McDonald video emerg- ed, other videos or cases of police shootings have occurred, including the killing of Ronald Johnson. Alvarez announces that she will not file charges against a Chicago Police Officer George Hernandez, who fatally shot Johnson in October 2014.
On Dec. 8, police released a video showing 38-year-old Phillip Coleman, who was jailed in December 2012 after attacking his 69-year-old mother at their home. In the video, several officers are seen placing Coleman in a chokehold and dragging his body out of the cell like a ragdoll. Coleman’ was tasered up to 18 times. Coupled with a bad reaction from a sedative he was given at the hospital, he later died from his injuries.
Coleman’s father, Percy Coleman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit and has vowed not to settle.
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