Horrifically Audacious: Black Lives Matter Protest Rahm "Chutzpah" Emanuel Of All People Talking About Trust At Mayors' Conference
Mayors of U.S. cities plagued with racism and police violence assembling straight-faced at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in D.C. under the slogan "Invest and Protect" is "like a fantasy world - it's Disneyland," charged a Black Lives Matter protester who crashed an opening press conference to urge Chicago's beleaguered Rahm Emanuel to resign in the wake of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, Emanuel's subsequent cover-up, and the city's long history of police abuse in the African-American community. Protesters were at the misnamed gathering, said Baltimore activist Shai Crawley, because, "That doesn’t happen in our communities. Nobody’s investing in our communities. Nobody’s protecting our communities."
The most visible, dramatic and exquisitely awkward challenge to the hypocrisy of the event's ostensible theme came in the steely-eyed appearance by April Goggan, 36, who charged up to the podium during an opening speech by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, infamous for once calling people protesting the brutal death of Freddie Gray "thugs." For several minutes, Goggan stood glaring in front of the good mayor, silently and steadfastly holding a sign that read, “16 Shots & a Cover-up #LaquanMcDonald #ResignRahm” as various well-dressed officials clumsily tugged on her sleeve, patted her shoulder and otherwise tried to make yet another angry black person failing to observe the social niceties just go away please. Ultimately, Rawlings-Blake decided to pretend everything was okay and returned to her speech, despite and over "Black Lives Matter" chants from the crowd. “Them getting together as mayors doesn’t do anything for the millions of people left back in their cities dealing with what they deal with everyday," charged Goggan, who said she was also honoring her great-grandfather who long fought for black civil rights. "They’re living this (fantasy) with their suits and their coffee.”
Many activists cite that same sense of disconnect, with the death of unarmed 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up a prime example. After he was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014 and police lied about it, Emanuel long fought the release of damning dashboard-cam video of the incident and waited 13 months to charge Van Dyke, even as he gutted Chicago's public schools, dismantled mental health services, approved spending 40% of the city's public services funds on police, and stayed largely silent on the city's history of rampant police brutality, including two recent killings and longstanding abuses - see the infamous “black site” - that have sparked a Department of Justice investigation, all while earning an ignoble 18% approval rating from his constituents and growing calls for his resignation. Oddly, Emanuel discussed none of this in his hour-long appearance on the conference's panel about Reducing Violence and Strengthening Policy/Community Trust, nor did he mention the code of silence he's charged Chicago cops use to protect one another. He did, however, tout the city's 26,000 kids in summer jobs, near-70% high school graduation rate, 400 cops on bikes and the need for police and city officials to take personal responsibility for their actions, presumably including murderous ones.
Little wonder, then, that activists from Black Lives Matter, Stop Police Terror Project, Black Youth Project and other groups at the mayor's gathering issued scathing critiques of such "plantation-type politics" practised by many Democrats and other "limousine liberals," calling the incongruous presence of Emanuel on the panel "horrifically audacious." While acknowledging that Chicago is just one city of many experiencing "a crisis of leadership" and Emanuel "does not stand alone as a U.S. mayor who advances white supremacy and state violence while refusing to be accountable to Black people," they called Emanuel's appearance "a slap in the face to the Black people who have survived years of documented police torture in Chicago, currently live under police terror, and have seen repeated cuts to areas that are critical to violence reduction and strong communities." Insisting "we will not be silenced," they urged Emanuel and other mayors to divest from policing and invest in black communities as the only way to reduce violence and build community trust. They added, "We will be here until you do."