By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
The cocktails were flowing inside the West Point Ballroom at the Holiday Inn Chicago River North Hotel. It was Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s victory party and the place was pumping. Kool and the Gang’s 1980 song “Celebration” was blaring as many revelers danced and sang along. Then came the booms from the bass heavy 1992 “Perculator” dance hit. Some 600 people waited for the biggest star of the night to appear on stage. They would wait for two hours for Foxx, who like many Blacks all over Chicago Tuesday night, was watching as her life changed while the career of a high-profile controversial prosecutor was coming to a dramatic end.
Then a Black man appeared on stage and said something that set off a thunderous roar that turned the party that ushered in a new era in Chicago. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita is out and this became the real reason to celebrate after many protests and fruitless attempts to remove her. She lost Tuesday night in a rout, with Foxx capturing 62 percent of 636,922 votes. Alvarez received just 26 percent of the ballots that were cast.
“The whole world is watching Cook County right now,’” he said. We want Cleveland to see this. We want Ferguson, MO to see this. We want Staten Island to see this.”
The man was referring to cities where police officers were not charged for killing Blacks, sparking widespread anger and protests in neighborhoods. It was a reference to Chicago’s own high-profile case of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was killed after being shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke in October, 2014.
Foxx’s opponent and incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for months defied calls to resign after being accused of mishandling a case that took her 13 months to charge Van Dyke. Anger, especially in the Black community intensified as she showed no remorse and remained unapologetic for her decisions that allowed police officers who killed Black men to walk free, while others police neighborhoods with impunity.
A new report this week shows that during her eight years as Chicago’s top prosecutor, Alvarez cleared killer cops 68 times. It was another stain on Alvarez’s resume and another insult to grieving families and Blacks who have suffered under her leadership.
So when Alvarez was defeated in Tuesday’s primary, the same Black man who made the speech at Foxx’s victory party led a diverse crowd of Black and white revelers into shouting “Two down, one to go.” It was a reference to former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. He was fired in December after a Cook County judge ordered the release of a police video that showed Laquan McDonald’s shooting in November.
In addition to McCarthy, protestors called for the resignation of Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. After McCarthy’s forced resignation, it was Alvarez’s turn, but she wouldn’t leave. She said no mistakes were made in the Laquan case. At a forum in Woodlawn, she told a crowd that included grieving families, that police have a right to use force when policing the street.
For years, the Black community was forced to endure Alvarez’s leadership. When she lost badly on Tuesday, her ouster was widely celebrated in Chicago. It was the end of an era where the justice system had scarred and disillusioned many Blacks. Overall, the story on Tuesday became more about her defeat than Foxx’s victory. The celebrations continue throughout the city because Alvarez is finally gone. Her ouster came at the hands of a smart, ambitious Black woman, who outfoxed Alvarez during this campaigned season.
A big change was needed to restore trust and help Chicago heal. When Alvarez was ousted, voters from all over expressed their pain and celebrated because some degree of justice had been served while hope grew for the future of many in Chicago and cities across the country. Alvarez’s ouster is also a warning to Emanuel, who in the past, has taken the Black community for granted and ignored their concerns. Now, the tables have turned.
Foxx is not yet Chicago’s top prosecutor. To get the job she must defeat in the General Election on November 8 Republican challenger Christopher E.K. Pfann- kuche, a 31-year Cook County Prosecutor. With support from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Foxx is riding a wave of momentum that includes endorsements from nearly every Black and mainstream media outlet. She is on her way to becoming the first Black Cook County State’s Attorney. But for many, all that matters is that Alvarez is gone.
Foxx’s victory was bigger than an ordinary election win. When Foxx appeared onstage at 9:37 p.m., a thunderous roar erupted. A new era was unfolding with a product of the Cabrini-Green Projects being at the center of it all. Alvarez’s defeat by a Black woman with humble beginnings made Foxx’s victory even sweeter.
At her victory party, former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was there. So was Foxx’s husband and daughter, who cried as she heard the crowds shout Foxx’s name. Foxx hugged her daughter and spoke.
“The work here is just the beginning and our struggles here are very real. The need to rebuild a broken justice system should not be taken likely. There’s a gulf between law enforcement and our community that must be bridged.
“The work we have to do will take an all hands on deck approach. And I’m humble to serve you. It’s about truth and justice to all.”
Hello Kim Foxx. Goodbye Anita Alvarez.