The Crusader Newspaper Group

Aldermen under siege from Obama Library protesters

Hairston meeting disrupted, demonstration held in front of Cochran office

Crusader Staff Report

Two of Chicago’s Black aldermen are under heavy fire from activists who are stepping up calls for City Hall to pass an ordinance that would prevent residents from being displaced when the Obama Presidential Library and Center is built.

A diverse group of activists on Tuesday, March 26, disrupted a community meeting hosted by Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) hours after they held a demonstration in front of Alderman Willie Cochran’s 20th Ward office at 6357 S. Cottage Grove.

Outside Cochran’s office, about 20 protesters held signs and chanted, “Rahm Emanuel’s got to go!”

Several residents gave speeches that included their concerns of being forced out of apartments that they have called home for years.

“We want a community benefits ordinance that would benefit all residents,” said Parrish Brown. “We have a right not to be displaced out of our community.”

At Hairston’s 5th Ward meeting, about 15 people reportedly stood up after one of them questioned the alderman. The group sang, and rapped for about two minutes before they walked out of the meeting, which was reportedly attended by 50 to 60 people.

With little success of securing a community benefits agreement, frustrations are rising for residents in Cochran and Hairston’s wards. Gentrification and rent increases remain big concerns as the Obama Foundation moves forward with plans to build the $500 million Obama Presidential Library in Jackson Park. The project has the potential to spur more development in Woodlawn and South Shore.

Cochran said last year he is not running for reelection. Hairston is seeking her sixth term in the February 26, 2019 mayoral elections. Both have been low key on issues regarding the Obama library, which is currently being reviewed by the city’s planning commission.

Efforts to secure a community benefits agreement have shifted from the Obama Foundation to City Hall. After being told no by former President Barack Obama, activists have turned to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Hairston and Cochran. They want their elected officials to push for an ordinance that would require developers and businessmen to sign a community benefits agreement.

Obama has held firm in his decision not to sign a community benefits agreement, saying it’s not necessary because the facility will be a benefit to neighborhoods.

But with grand plans that have the potential to dramatically change neighborhoods, activists are demanding a community benefits agreement in writing, saying it’s needed to protect existing residents who fear being displaced once the facility is built.

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