Committee OKs $1.67M Brickyard settlement after racially charged debate
Ald. Nick Sposato infuriated his Black colleagues by questioning Mia Wright’s claim that she and her friends, who lived in North Lawndale, had chosen to shop in Belmont Cragin on a chaotic day of rampant looting.
After an explosive, racially charged debate, a divided City Council committee on Thursday authorized a $1.67 million settlement to five people dragged from their car and roughed up by Chicago Police officers responding to rampant looting at the Brickyard Mall in May 2020.
The Finance Committee vote was 13 to 7.
Four of the seven no votes were cast by white alderpersons: Brian Hopkins (2nd); Marty Quinn (13th); Nick Sposato (38th) and Anthony Napolitano (41st). The three remaining dissenting votes were cast by Latino alderpersons: Ray Lopez (15th); Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Ariel Reboyras (30th).
Lopez led the charge against the settlement that will be shared by five plaintiffs, including Mia Wright.
She was dragged out of the car by her hair and pinned to the ground by Chicago police officers who kneeled on her neck. Wright claimed the officers’ violent actions left her blind in her right eye — from, she assumes, windshield or window glass shattered by baton-wielding police.
However, doctors could find no physical reason for Wright’s blindness or foreign object in her eye and have since diagnosed her with “emotional blindness,” said Deputy Corporation Counsel Caroline Fronczak.
The hair-dragging incident captured on widely circulated videos replayed at Thursday’s meeting occurred during a tumultuous weekend that saw demonstrations devolve into looting and mayhem.
“To say that day was chaotic is an understatement to what this city experienced when full civil unrest — when this whole city was under siege for nearly 24 hours straight in an organized effort to completely de-stabilize our city,” Lopez said.
“What I see is the opening of the door — the opening of Pandora’s box — to start giving everyone else an excuse to start suing us now because of what happened that day when they were willfully trying to destroy the city,” he added.
“I caution you here … to know where we’re taking the taxpayers’ dollars after today. I’m sure this will not be the last lawsuit for excessive abuse for people who were trying to loot, pillage and destroy the city.”
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) infuriated his African-American colleagues when he questioned the veracity of Wright’s claim that she and her friends, who lived in North Lawndale, had gone to Brickyard Mall on that chaotic day to shop for diapers and party favors for one of their birthdays.
“They lived 27 minutes away from that party store and that Target. There’s a party store in North Riverside that was 13 minutes away. There’s a party store in McKinley Park that was 18 minutes away. And they passed numerous Target [stores] to go to that particular Target on that day where all of this rioting and all of these problems were going on,” Sposato said.
“Google Chicago Brickyard riot and you’ll see the mass chaos that was going on there that day. … You’ll see the amount of officers on that disgraceful day for our city. I believe everybody knew what was going on in the city. ... This group of individuals decided they wanted to go to the Brickyard at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, which by that time, we knew the city was up for grabs.”
Deputy Corporation Counsel Caroline Fronczak said the Civilian Office of Police Accountability has recommended disciplinary action against eight officers — ranging from reprimand and suspension to termination — and the Police Superintendent David Brown has concurred in all eight recommendations.
No hammer or other destructive devices were found in Wright’s red Hyundai. Nor were any stolen items recovered or witnesses found who saw any of the friends engaged in destructive or looting behavior.
At one point, committee Chairman Scott Waguespack (32nd) cautioned Sposato not to ask “leading questions” of Fronczak. But the damage was done.
African American alderpersons were furious at Sposato for suggesting Black people had no business shopping at Brickyard.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) asked Fronczak whether it was “legal for a Black person to travel about the city of Chicago” and shop at any store they chose.
“What my colleagues don’t seem to understand is that, when you are a person of color in this city, you are targeted because of the color of your skin and certain perceptions that people have. And they make up things about you, so they can come and do unconstitutional things to you,” Hairston said.
“These young people were treated this way because they were Black. … We have a problem with racial profiling. And we have a problem with mistreating citizens who are law-abiding citizens.”
Black Caucus Chair Jason Ervin (28th) demanded to know “what’s wrong with somebody who lives at Pulaski and Cermak driving up to the Brickyard Mall to shop. … People have a right to move about the city and move about their neighborhoods as they choose. I don’t think we ought to be making statements that folks in certain communities should not be going to certain places.”
West Side Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said some of her colleagues “need to re-think how we look at people.”
“I’ve heard a conversation today that is really stunning to me as a Black woman. … We all know that we are targets just being Black. You don’t fit in. You’ve got to try to fit in and fight for this all your life. It’s really sad,” Mitts said.
“If you can’t prove something, don’t fabricate what you think they were getting ready to do. We should be ashamed of ourselves for even bringing this to the public like that.”