Long before coordinated suicide bombings at a Paris soccer stadium, a concert hall and restaurants killed 129 and injured hundreds more, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was planning to attend the Climate Summit for Local Leaders that has Paris on high-alert.
On Monday, the mayor said he will go ahead with the trip, beginning Dec. 4, even as other Chicagoans, including a school group, cut short their trips to Paris.
“I wanted to announce it today to make sure that those who thought that you could weaken [us], or somehow sow fear — that is not the result,” Emanuel said after meeting with the French consul general in Chicago.
The actual announcement had come from Emanuel’s office earlier Monday, which explained that the trip had been planned for months.
“The mayor is not going to cancel at a time of crisis. It’s important that we stand shoulder to shoulder with Paris, our Sister City,” said Kelley Quinn, the mayor’s communications director.
“Canceling would be exactly what the terrorists want,” she said.
Emanuel met with French Consul General Vincent Floreani to convey the city’s sympathies in the wake of the Friday night attacks that were the worst on French soil since World War II.
Talking to reporters after the closed meeting, Emanuel expressed Chicago’s solidarity with Parisians in the wake of what he called “a vicious and a vile attack” not just on Parisians, but also on shared Western values.
Emanuel arrived at the consulate with a vase of flowers in hand, adding them to the array of flowers, candles, and handwritten signs comprising a memorial in the consulate lobby.
On one flag affixed to the consulate’s wall, someone had written: “Liberté — Égalité — Fraternité — #NotAfraid”
“Our values . . . of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — have a foundation in France,” the mayor said. “Make no doubt that what happened on Friday night was an attack on those shared values.”
In an email, the mayor’s office noted that the climate summit is “the largest global convening of mayors, governors and local leaders focused on climate change” and that it coincides with another major global meeting in Paris, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), “where leaders from all countries come together to set a framework to curb global warming. While the long-planned summit will address the challenge of global climate change, it will also be a remarkable show of global solidarity with Paris and the freedoms France stands for, as well as a testament to the resolve of Parisians.”
The climate summit will be hosted by Anne Hidalgo, mayor of the City of Paris, former New York City Michael R. Bloomberg and by the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for cities and climate change.
While announcing his participation in the summit, Emanuel took credit for his steps in office to lower the city’s carbon footprint, including 103 miles of protected bike lanes; alternative energy sources in public transportation; and shutting down the Fisk and Crawford coal-burning power plants that still burned in the South Side when the mayor first took office.
Emanuel is expected to be an active participant in the invitation-only summit for global leaders. He’s also expected to “engage in bilateral meeting with partner governments” while in Paris.
The mayor also said he spoke with head of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson over the phone this weekend, discussing “certain precautionary steps” with regards to public safety in public venues and on transportation.
While encouraging the public to be “vigilant,” Emanuel was confident there is no intelligence information indicating any threats to Chicago.