Millennial community activist Ja’Mal Green said Friday he’s running against Rahm Emanuel because he was unable to convince Ken Bennett, the father of Chance the Rapper, to challenge the mayor who was once Bennett’s boss at City Hall.
In fact, Green described Bennett as his “mentor” and said both he and Chance had lobbied behind the scenes to persuade Bennett to quit his job as Emanuel’s director of public engagement during the tumultuous days that followed release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
“He was one who tried to mend those relationships after Laquan McDonald. Stressed him out a ton . . . It sucks to be the one that it all falls on — especially being the black person right up under Rahm. You’re gonna take the most heat because the communities know you,” Green, 23, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I told him, ‘Get out. They’re using you. You’re the token black man, and Rahm Emanuel is just gonna keep on letting this stuff fall on you and not take responsibility for it’ . . . I heard through the grapevine that Chance said those same things. Chance has been very vocal already about his distaste for Rahm Emanuel. He even did it in a song not too long ago.”
Bennett, who now holds a top job at the tourism agency known as Choose Chicago, could not be reached for comment.
Green said he has known Chance since they were in youth programs together a decade ago. He considers Bennett a “mentor” and a “father figure.”
That’s why Green said he tried to persuade Bennett to challenge Emanuel. When Bennett refused, Green stepped up instead.
“It was either gonna be me or him,” he said.
Given his close personal relationship to the Bennett family, Green was asked whether he stands a chance to win Chance’s endorsement.
“I’ve got to prove myself to make sure that he understands that I can run this city. Then, I think he’ll make the best decision,” Green said.
After an anti-police-brutality protest at Taste of Chicago in 2016, Green was among 19 people who made headlines for being arrested. He pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, but felony charges alleging he hit a police officer were dropped.
He also helped to organize weeks of demonstrations that followed the court-ordered release of the McDonald shooting video.
On Friday, Green said he plans to hit the streets again before, during and after the trial of Jason Van Dyke, who is charged with first-degree murder for firing 16 shots that killed McDonald.
“I am worried. We could look at Ferguson. We could look at other cities. This case is one of the biggest cases nationally in history. We don’t know what will happen and how people will take the effects of Jason Van Dyke actually getting off or not getting first-degree murder,” Green said.
“Our justice system can be rigged . . . I fear that he gets off. I fear that this city erupts. Protesters are already planning to . . . use their activism strength if he does get off. I don’t know what can happen . . . I’m definitely gonna be pushing for people to be peaceful. I’ve always done that.”
The trial is scheduled to begin in early September. The timing for Emanuel couldn’t be worse. Green calls it “karma.”
“He covered this video up to get in. And I think Jason Van Dyke is now gonna be karma for him to get out. That’s why we got Anita Alvarez out. When people are in the mood and they’re paying attention and they want to vote,” Green said.
Apparently referring to Alvarez and fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, Green said, “Two down. One to go. Rahm is the third . . . We’ve been planning this from the beginning.”
The Emanuel campaign declined to comment.
Emanuel has been under fire for keeping the McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year and waiting until one week after the April 7, 2015, mayoral runoff election to authorize a $5 million settlement to the McDonald family — before a lawsuit even had been filed.
The video was released on Nov. 24, 2015, but only after a judge ordered it. That same day, Van Dyke, the white officer on the video, was charged with the first-degree murder of the black teenager.
The mayor has emphatically denied keeping the dashcam video of the shooting under wraps to get past the election. But he has acknowledged that he “added to the suspicion and distrust” of everyday Chicagoans by blindly following the city’s long-standing practice of withholding shooting videos to avoid compromising ongoing criminal investigations.