The Chicago Police Department “facilitated criminal behavior” — and set a dangerous precedent — by allowing a small group of protesters to shut down Lake Shore Drive during rush-hour, former-police-superintendent-turned-mayoral challenger Garry McCarthy said Friday.
One day after the Chicago police officers and members of the news media dwarfed the number of protesters on the march to Wrigley Field, McCarthy essentially portrayed Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a permissive parent inviting bad behavior.
“They shouldn’t have allowed them on Lake Shore Drive. This is unconscionable. We’ve now created a precedent where we are facilitating criminal behavior. You give an inch, they take a mile. This is not even a slippery slope. We are now sliding. The police should not be facilitating criminal behavior. And this is happening at the behest of city government,” McCarthy said.
“I’ve been involved in working protests for God knows how long. The greatest example was NATO. We did not facilitate criminal behavior. If they marched, we walked with them. We tried to make it safe on city streets. We did not let them get on the highways….We’re spending money to facilitate criminal behavior….I’ve said this for a long time. We are slipping into lawlessness.”
McCarthy said the Lake Shore Drive protest is even worse, given what happened last month on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
In that case, the Rev. Michael Pfleger led hundreds of protesters on an anti-violence march that shut down the northbound lanes of the Ryan.
Leaders from the Illinois State Police — which has jurisdiction over the Dan Ryan — and Chicago Police Department had publicly asked Pfleger to call off the expressway protest, saying arrests would be made if necessary.
But the march went on after Emanuel gave his blessing. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson could be seen walking arm-in-arm with Pfleger along the Ryan.
“That puts the State Police in a real bad position. Should they have arrested Chicago police officers, including Eddie Johnson?” McCarthy said Friday.
“The police should not engage in criminal behavior. If this protest was in Evanston and the Chicago Police Department facilitated illegal activity, wouldn’t that be a problem? It’s the same issue when it’s not your jurisdiction on the Dan Ryan.”
Underscoring McCarthy’s point about the dangerous precedent, the Rev. Gregory Livingston, who organized the Lake Shore Drive march, announced late Friday that O’Hare Airport would be next.
“If Mayor Rahm Emanuel refuses to even listen to the needs of Chicago’s most vulnerable and neglected citizens, we will raise the heat and block the ingress & egress of Chicago’s airport traffic,” Livingston was quoted as saying in a press release.
“We must challenge the Mayor’s arrogance with our hearts, our friends, possibly our votes and newly forged socio-political alliances.”
McCarthy was hailed as a modern-day General Douglas MacArthur for his frontline leadership during the 2012 NATO Summit.
Dressed in his white uniform shirt and tie, pants and hat –– and no helmet or body armor –– McCarthy stood on the front lines, calling the shots like a football coach. He helped defuse a potentially volatile confrontation with Black Bloc provocateurs at Michigan and Cermak.
On Friday, he pointed to that experience as an example of how protesters should be handled.
“I said it over and over again — that we would protect peoples’ First Amendment rights, but be intolerant of criminal behavior,” McCarthy said.
“During those eight days, I think we lost a roadway once. That was Lake Shore Drive and it was for one exit down by McCormick Place and we got the protesters off the highway immediately. That’s a lot different than what’s happening now where you’ve had, unfortunately, the Chicago Police Department marching with Pfleger onto the highway.”
McCarthy didn’t hesitate when asked why Emanuel would allow it.
“He thinks it’s his best politics. That’s how he makes decisions: Based on his own politics–not on what’s best for the city,” McCarthy said of the boss who fired him.
The Emanuel campaign had no immediate comment on McCarthy’s charge.