Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel might have apologized to his constituents yesterday (December 9), but it wasn’t enough to stop more than 1,000 protestors from taking to the streets to demand his resignation.
In the weeks since the November 24 release of the video of Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, Chicagoans have protested the city’s leadership and its presumed cover up of McDonald’s death. Several of the players involved have either stepped down from their posts or resigned—including Garry McCarthy (CPD superintendent), Scott Ando (head of Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority), and Constantine “Dean” Andrews (CPD chief of detectives). But from tweeting with the hashtag #ResignRahm to shutting down the city’s Magnificent Mile shopping district, citizens want the mayor and states attorney Anita Alvarez to lose their jobs for the role they played in the flawed investigation. As a result of the protests, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened a civil rights investigation into the CPD. And the city’s inspector general is currently investigating at least five officers who filed police reports that conflict with the video.
In yesterday’s speech during a special meeting of City Council, Emanuel apologized for the shooting and the city’s handling of it, while maintaining his claim that he did not block the release of the dashcam video to bolster his chances of winning reelection last spring.
Per the Chicago Sun-Times:
“What happened on Oct. 20, 2014, should never have happened. Supervision and leadership in the police department and the oversight agencies that were in place failed and that has to change,” Emanuel told the City Council.
“I am the mayor… I own it… But if we’re also going to begin the healing the process, the first step in that journey is my step. And I’m sorry.”
Asked later what he apologized for, Emanuel said, “The innocent loss of the life of a young man and a systematic breakdown of a system that was supposed to safeguard the protection of life… The apology was also for the process of healing.”
Emanuel has emphatically denied keeping the tape under wraps to get past the election.
But he acknowledged Wednesday that he should have challenged the city’s longstanding practice of withholding the shooting video to avoid compromising an ongoing criminal investigation that dragged on for 13 months until Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder.
“By following a time-honored practice, you could clearly say we were adding to the suspicion and distrust,” he said.
Many viewed the speech as Emanuel’s effort to sway the populace to his corner. Rather than address the inconsistent manner in which he has addressed the situation—fighting the tape’s release before saying it should have been released sooner; saying Van Dyke was just one bad cop before calling for CPD reform; stiff-arming the DOJ before welcoming their investigation—he struck an emotional tone.
In reality, his address spurred renewed protest efforts. Hundreds of protestors swarmed the streets of downtown Chicago, from City Hall to the financial district, shutting down traffic and even spilling into stores. Students went straight from school to peacefully march along luxury retail district Magnificent Mile. “We don’t want your apology! We want your resignation!” was a common refrain during the actions, which continued into the evening. And local ABD affiliate WLS reports that a group of medical students staged a die-in in front of City Hall this morning, lying on the concrete for 16 minutes—one for each of the bullets Van Dyke emptied into McDonald’s body.
— Ibrahim Samra (@IbrahimSamra01) December 10, 2015
— Jessica D’Onofrio (@donofrioABC7) December 10, 2015
Protester Angelina Espindola was not interested in Emanuel’s apology. “‘Sorry’ isn’t going to bring those kids back,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “All [Emanuel] is doing is talking. Now he’s doing it because everyone’s paying attention.”
Emanuel has maintained that he will not resign. At the city level, ThinkProgess reports that Emanuel would have to sign a City Council bill to approve his own ouster. And according to the Better Government Association, the are currently no state laws that allow for a recall. But yesterday, Illinois state representative La Shawn Ford introduced legislation that, if passed, would establish a recall procedure. If activists could gather 88,610 signatures, they could force the Board of Elections to host a special recall election.