Attendees dissatisfied with Emanuel’s apology for police shooting

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In a special meeting Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed aldermen, police and the public about the Chicago Police Department, the new task force and plans for moving forward. After the meeting, demonstrators responded to Emanuel’s message, chanting for his resignation and the resignation of Anita Alvarez, the the state’s attorney for cook county. 

During the meeting, Emanuel apologized for the events surrounding McDonald’s death and the time it took to release the footage showing officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times in October 2014. What happened, Emanuel said, should never have happened. He pointed to failures in oversight and a lack of containment and proper management on the scene as factors also contributing to the death of McDonald, but citizens who were allowed to sit in the gallery to listen to the speech — the special meeting required an invitation or RSVP — did not believe the speech did enough.

Protesters blocked traffic moving north on Michigan Avenue Wednesday afternoon and after sitting at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, continued to cross the bridge to protest.

Protesters blocked traffic moving north on Michigan Avenue Wednesday afternoon and after sitting at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, and then continued to cross the bridge to protest. (Megan Deppen/The DePaulia)

Kimberley Egonmwan was at the meeting and is part of the National PanHellenic Council of Chicago. She felt the special meeting was too little, too late.

“He’s crying up there, but no amount of crying is going to blot out blatant racism. It looks like the spirit of his leadership is ‘don’t do anything until you’re caught,’” Egonmwan said. “He’s part of the issue and there’s no speech that’s going to get rid of that. It’s too little, too late.”

Emanuel’s speech went over the restructuring of CPD’s training and accountability measures, a restructure that he hopes will restore police-community relations by addressing the “trust problem” between communities and the police that are stationed within their areas. He urged the aldermen present to empower their constituents to make their communities safer alongside the police officers. Then, and only then, he said, trust could be restored where it has been lost.

Trust and respect were major themes of the meeting; Emanuel talked about gun violence and its relation to the shootings seen throughout not only the city, but also the nation. He got emotional when talking about a meeting he had with a young man who asked him “do you think the police would ever treat me the way they treat you?” The question, as well as other moments when Emanuel became emotional — the tears and the anger — were met with boos from those in the gallery.

When groups and demonstrators began their demonstration in earnest, anger about the lack of justice for McDonald and other victims of police shootings, as well as disappointment about the speech, were prevalent.

“We need to get justice, and there’s only one kind of justice that means anything that those who have perpetrated these murders and those who have systematically covered it up have to be indicted and prosecuted,” Lou Downey, who was present in the gallery and at the demonstration, said. “Rahm didn’t say a thing about an indictment of those in the machine who covered it up. The problem isn’t a lack of trust, the problem is there is an epidemic of police murders particularly targeting black and brown men.”

The focus of the taskforce and the next steps forward would be justice, culture and community, Emanuel said.

Justice will be sought through independent evaluations of the police and their training methods. The culture within CPD — particularly the thin blue line, the code of silence many enforced by police officers who “ignore,deny and cover up the actions of a colleague” — and the community’s role are all part of the plan.

The resulting demonstration during the council’s normally scheduled meeting was a response to Emanuel’s speech, as well as the weeks following release of footage showing McDonald’s shooting, the shooting of Ronald Johnson — and the lack of an indictment of the officer who shot and killed him — as well as the release of footage showing the tasering of Phillip Coleman, who died while in police custody.

“This is nothing new,” Gabriel Solomon, who was present at the demonstration said. “This is a Chicago practice. It has to change. All of them (Alvarez, Emanuel) should go, the whole system should be overturned.”

Those on the second floor, where the demonstration took place, chanted about the guilt of the system outside of the mayor’s offices.

There are rallies and protests planned for later today and tomorrow, Dec. 10. Though the speech did not touch on issues the way those who demonstrated and those in the gallery wanted, there is still a consensus that the push for justice will continue until justice for the victims is received.

“It (the speech) is the same thing (Emanuel) has been saying for the past five years. I wasn’t impressed with it,” Josephine Hamilton-Perry, a concerned citizen at the meeting and protest, said.  “I really would love to see the action taken to get rid of the corruption in this city and that was not the speech. He needs to go.”