Black clergy to hold massive voter registration drives

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Photo by Chinta Strausberg

Vow to dump Alvarez

Saying getting rid of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is not enough, several ministers are revving up for a massive voter registration drive in hopes of defeating State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and any other elected official involved in the cover-up of the police video shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Some of those ministers speaking out were the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Pastor Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church and Rev. Yehiel Curry, a member of the Community Renewal Society and pastor of Shekinah Chapel.

Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) and other elected and religious officials also agreed that McCarthy’s departure was just the beginning of a deeper systemic police problem they say needs fixing.

Putting the mayor and Alvarez on notice, at 9 a.m., Thursday, December 3rd, Bishop Larry D. Trotter and Bishop James Dukes are holding an “accountability” meeting at Sweet Holy Spirit Church, 8621 S. Chicago Avenue, to demand answers from the mayor. They want to know the mayor’s alleged involvement with the tape showing officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times in 15 seconds.

They also want the release of all similar tapes involving police shootings, an elected police review board, release of all settlements and police brutality cases and a copy of agreements with the families.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rev. Jackson said, “Until we get the police culture challenged and a special prosecutor appointed, we cannot stop” the demonstrations.

He wasn’t alone in his reaction to McCarthy’s resignation. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan weigh- ed in asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the police department. Madigan wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to investigate the police department’s internal review process and to see if there is a “pattern of discriminatory policing…and use of deadly force.”

Acree said getting rid of McCarthy “is a necessary step that the mayor had to take. He had no other choice. The people spoke. Corruption seems to be embedded from the top of the department all the way to the rank and file.”

Pastor Acree said what the mayor has done is “not enough…too little, too late.” He wants to know all of those who knew about the tape including the nine other officers he said were on the scene when the teen was shot.

He wants an independent prosecutor because he suspects there is “collusion between the mayor’s office, the police superintendent’s office and that of the state’s attorney’s office. Acree also called for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign. “Whether she resigns or not, we can take her out” come election time, he stated.

On Tuesday, December 8, the Leaders Network of which Acree is co-chair, is holding a monthly meeting where Cook County Clerk David Orr will talk about voter registration. Acree wants 100 churches to each have two deputy registrars to register their members. He said this is the best way people can vent their feelings on what he calls a “betrayal of our trust” by the mayor, the top cop and Alvarez.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin said, removing McCarthy was necessary “but an insufficient first step because without systemic reforms, the divide between law enforcement and communities will not be healed.”

Illinois Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) called for the appointment of a special prosecutor. “To be effective, our outrage must be focused, our demands specific and sharp,” Collins said. “Charging Jason Van Dyke with first degree murder is not enough.

“There was a cover-up, and anyone involved in it must be held accountable. If we do not tear down the blue curtain of silence once and for all, Laquan McDonalds will continue to die in our city. We must never forget that the videos, and the truth, were not simply handed to us. Instead, they were ripped from reluctant hands by journalists, citizens and the courts,” said the senator.

Collins introduced a bill calling for police reform. It provides a procedure to appoint a special prosecutor in cases like McDonald’s. Collins said the bill becomes law in January. “It must be used to help bring to justice rogue cops and those who cover for them,” Collins said.

Collins also called for the resignation of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “She has failed in her responsibility to timely, openly prosecute a heinous crime that not only took a life but betrayed the public trust.”

As a board member of the Community Renewal Society, Pastor Curry said they want an independent auditor to look at the practices of the police department and all of its boards, make recommendations “without being controlled by those you are supposed to be policing,” said Curry.

Curry’s group has offered the Freedom Through Accountability, Investigation and Reform for Community Oversight of Policing Services (FAIR COPS) ordinance to the City Council “but they never acted or accepted the ordinance. It would have created a Police Auditor Office, which would inspect the entire system of policing patterns of misconduct, call for investigations of police abuse and implement policy change.

“This is a proposal that the Community Renewal Society presented to the mayor three times over the last year. At our last meeting in October, we walked out of the meeting because of his refusal to even consider that change was needed,” said Curry.

He said the aldermen were more interested in trying to get someone else to replace McCarthy. Sources say that someone was former First Deputy Al Wysinger, an African American who recently retired. The mayor has launched an outside search with a March 2016 deadline.

On the police accountability the mayor appointed, Curry said, “We’ve seen that game before. They would basically do the same thing that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) board is supposed to do….” Curry said the new board “is another committee that’s basically run by Mayor Emanuel. This is just a fourth group that is being dictated by the Fifth Floor. What we are looking for is real authentic change.”

Curry’s members said in a statement, “What happened to Laquan McDonald is not the result of a single bad police officer. It is a consequence of a broken system.” They criticized the mayor for not fixing the problem and for not making police more accountable.

“Over the last five-years, the Chicago Police Department killed more civilians than any other police department in the country; yet not a single officer has ever been fired for an unjustified shooting,” Curry’s group said in a statement.

Referring to the department’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the group said it “recommended discipline for a meager 128 officers out of more than 10,000 complaints of excessive force.” To add insult to injury, the Society said, “In the rare cases that IPRA and the superintendent agree that a police officer should be fired, the Police Board has overruled this recommendation and allowed an officer to return to duty more than half of the time.”

And Rose Joshua, president of the Southside NAACP chapter, wants to meet with the mayor and said the ouster of McCarthy “had nothing to do with police reform.” She said this is just the beginning of a long process to reform that troubled police department.

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