File photo shows a previous visit by Mayor Emanuel to Urban Prep Academy in the Bronzeville neighborhood, before the outrage of the Laquan McDonald incident. (Photo credit: Brooke Collins, City of Chicago)
Either Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s own arrogance or his public relations staff’s ignorance put him in an embarrassing position Wednesday morning at Urban Prep High School on the South Side.
Appearing to announce new initiatives in a program designed to help inner-city Black males, Emanuel was greeted with boos, had students turn their back on him during his speech and was rushed off the stage after dozens began chanting “16 shots” when his address concluded.
The students—like much of the Black community—are irate with the mayor over his handling of the Laquan McDonald killing in which a young man the students’ age was murdered after being shot 16 times by a Chicago Police officer in October 2014.
“He should have never showed up here today,” shouted one student to the media before a staff member at the school ushered him away.
The all-Black male school was supposed to be the backdrop for the announcement of a cabinet for the local chapter of the My Brother’s Keeper campaign. The initiative, started by President Barack Obama, aims to provide mentoring for young men of color, but as soon as the mayor was introduced, the jeers began.
While there was no chanting during the speech itself, students were seen talking to one another, turning their backs to the stage and showing other behaviors of disinterest in what Emanuel had to say.
The mayor was visibly shaken by the response of the students. After the speech, he left the stage quickly and exited the school as the students continued to chant. His office released a statement later in the day in response to the students’ actions during the event.
“The mayor recognizes that Chicagoans are understandably frustrated. He has called for systemic reform to bring safety to every community and rebuild trust where it has been lost. As part of that process, he will continue to engage with residents, police and community leaders to address their specific concerns.”
Some staff at Urban Prep was dismayed by Emanuel’s appearance. One staff member who spoke to Crusader on the condition their name not be revealed said it was not the school’s decision to bring the mayor in.
“We understand our students better than anyone, and we’ve been discussing the McDonald case periodically in class the last two weeks, so we know how they feel about the mayor. This was not our call,” the source said. “The mayor’s people contacted us about doing this. He is the mayor and he runs the school district, so we couldn’t say ‘no.’ But, it takes a special kind of obtuseness to think it is a good idea to show up at a school where every kid here is striving to get a quality education and opportunities that come from it that Laquan McDonald did not get. Every kid here can relate to him by their age and race. Our motto is ‘We Believe,’ and it is a constant reminder that Urban Prep students will not fall into the trap of stereotypes and low expectations. Emanuel should have known better.”
Earlier in the day, Reverend Gregory Livingston repeated calls for Emanuel to step down as he and other members of the Coalition for a New Chicago announced plans to boycott shopping in Chicago throughout the holidays.
When notified about what had happened earlier in the day at Urban Prep, Livingston responded, “Good for them! I’m proud to hear they are taking a stance,” he said.
“Schools have been closed down. Mental health centers have been closed down. All kinds of things that human beings need have been cut by this mayor. President Obama needs to come and get his boy.”