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Activists aim to vote out Black aldermen after Van Dyke rulings

Crusader Staff Report

A movement is underway to oust the city’s Black aldermen who have been silent in their loyalty to Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he suppressed the video of Laquan McDonald as he was re-elected to a second term with the help of the Black vote.

Activists at Saint Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham held a planning meeting on Sunday, January 20, where they blasted Black aldermen for their role in the alleged cover up.

Called “Next Steps: From Marching to Mobilizing, #TakeBackCityCouncil,” the meeting included speeches from Father Michael Pfleger, activist William Calloway and several young activists who are planning voter registration drives as part of a coordinated action plan to sweep out corrupt Black aldermen at City Hall.

“If we can get 10 new seats in the City Council, we can have control of City Council” said Pfleger, who proposed an economic boycott in Chicago if conditions don’t improve for Blacks in the city.

“I believe that it’s important to vote people out and that’s what needs to happen at this point,” said Kina Collins. “I’m not going to no more protests. I’m mobilizing people to the polls. I think City Council is just as responsible and complicit in the cover up of Laquan McDonald (case) as those officers, State’s Attorney’s office and the mayor. These aldermanic seats are extremely important.”

Aldermanic candidates Jedidah Brown (7th Ward), Preston Brown Jr. (34th Ward), and Linda Hudson (8th Ward) and State Senator Jacqueline Collins were also in attendance. Calloway is running for the 5th Ward aldermanic seat against incumbent Leslie Hairston.

The meeting came days after two judges in two separate cases acquitted three police officers and sentenced convicted murder Jason Van Dyke to 6 years and nine months in jail.

The back-to-back rulings drew anger and criticism from Chicago’s Black clergy and activists.

They say the ruling confirmed longstanding beliefs that the Cook County justice system protects Chicago police officers charged with misconduct and punishes Black males charged with similar crimes.

Activists from a dozen organizations protested Van Dyke’s short prison sentence and the acquittal of three officers during a march down Dr. Martin Luther King Drive on Sunday. One day before the holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader, activists yelled “16 shots and a cover up.”

Later that evening at Saint Sabina, activists shifted their anger towards City Hall, where all of Chicago’s 50 aldermen are up for re-election in the city elections on February 26.

But the anger is even stronger towards the city’s 18 Black aldermen who represent 18 predominately Black wards, where residents remain deeply affected by the McDonald case more than four years after the teenager’s murder.

After a dash cam video was released showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, many Black aldermen were silent as they were accused of supporting the mayor, who at the start of the trial September 5, announced that he would not run for a second term. He was the third official whose public career came to an end because of the McDonald case. Former police chief Garry McCarthy was fired, and voters in the March 2016 primary ousted Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. She waited 13 months to charge Van Dyke with first degree murder.

On October 5, Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. Black leaders wanted him to serve at least 96 years, but Judge Vincent Van Gaughan gave him just 81 months, or six years and nine months. Many in the Black community say Van Dyke’s punishment does not fit his crime and conviction as a murderer.

With Emanuel, McCarthy and Alvarez, out, Chicago’s Black aldermen are the only figures left standing in a case that dramatically altered the future of the city and how it deals with police misconduct cases.

Many of Chicago’s Black aldermen have remained silent since the rulings were made on January 17 and January 18. On a posting on Facebook, Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) made a statement with Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), Alderman Michelle Harris (8th Ward), Alderman Howard Brookins (21st Ward), Alderman Jason Earvin (28th Ward) and Alderman Carrie Austin (34th) standing behind him. They did not speak, but Sawyer as head of the Chicago Black Caucus made a statement.

“Time and time again our community suffers from injustice. Systemic racism is alive and well in Chicago and this verdict is an example of the senseless violence that our community experiences every day, “Sawyer said.  “Our young men are dying at the hands of police. We need leadership and accountability.”

But that did little to nothing to quell the anger among activists who say the Black aldermen were absent during the entire duration of the Van Dyke and the police misconduct trials at the Leighton Criminal Courts building on the West Side.

The Black Caucus’ joint statement may have come too late in restoring trust in the leadership of Black aldermen.

But activists had been angry at Black aldermen for supporting the mayor as he closed seven mental health clinics in 2012, closed 50 schools the following year and approved the Obama Presidential Center and Library in 2018 without a community benefits agreement.

The mayor’s initial reluctance to enter into a consent decree with the Chicago Police Department and the longstanding gun violence in predominately Black wards have also contributed to activists’ frustrations. Activist say the Van Dyke case was the final confirmation that the mayor and the City Council were largely part of the problem instead of the solution to the Black community’s problems.

But police misconduct has been the biggest problem for activists.

“People think this started with Laquan, but it really started with Rekya (Boyd),” said Collins, referring to the 22-year-old Black woman who was killed by Officer Dante Servin in 2012. “I’m angry as hell, but I know that we have to channel that energy in the next 35 days to do what needs to be done. The truth is, the system failed Laquan long before he interacted with Van Dyke.”



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