Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday likened George Floyd’s death to the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and responded to violent protests in Minneapolis by saying, “There but for the grace of God goes Chicago.”
“There’s no mayor in any big city that has the diversity that we have here in Chicago who can’t be thinking every single day, watching what’s happening in Minneapolis, ‘This could be me. This could be our city. This could be us going through this incredibly challenging time,’” Lightfoot said.
Seeing the horrific video of Floyd lying under the knee of a Minneapolis officer struggling to breathe resurrected the Chicago nightmare that inspired Lightfoot to declare her candidacy for mayor at a time when incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel was still a candidate for re-election.
Lightfoot called it a “painful reminder” that, even as city’s attention has been diverted to the pandemic, work continues to reform the Chicago Police Department and rebuild public trust shattered by the court-ordered release of the video of McDonald’s shooting.
“We can’t rest knowing that black mothers and fathers in our city still live in fear of getting a phone call about something terrible happening to their children,” the mayor said.
“I hug my daughter a little longer at night every time I hear a story like that of Mr. Floyd. And I think about my brothers and men in my family — another black American killed in this way. It’s a generational burden I know my mother carried. I carry it, too.”
Lightfoot and CPD Supt. David Brown “are united in making it clear to our officers that we hold them — and they must hold themselves — to the highest of standards. We can’t go backwards now,” the mayor said.
“There are some communities — particularly on the South and West Sides — where Chicagoans call for police presence more often. That is their right and they are entitled to service. They must be able to do so with the expectation that they will be treated with the same respect and dignity … they would in my neighborhood of Logan Square.”
Floyd’s death, and the video of Floyd saying he could not breathe as a white officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, has touched off protests in Minneapolis and other cities.
On Thursday, Lightfoot acknowledged she worries the same thing could happen in Chicago.
“I had a very good conversation earlier today with the superintendent. He believes — and I think he’s 100 percent right — that the time to prepare is now before the crisis hits,” the mayor said.
By doing “the hard, but important, essential work every single day of building legitimacy [and] authentic relationships with members of the community,” she said, you are ready when there is a crisis, so that “you have a well of good will that you can draw upon in trying to defuse it.”
Lightfoot talked about the revulsion she felt watching “the life leave another human being” while he was “on the ground begging for his life, saying he can’t breathe” and about how arriving paramedics treated Floyd “almost like he was a piece of meat.”
She added: “It sickened me. I want to make sure that something like that doesn’t happen in our city.”