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Emanuel, McCarthy clash on whether police have the will to handle protests

The city of Chicago has joined 19 other local governments in a legal brief supporting Planned Parenthood's challenge of federal changes to funding requirements. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Sept. 13, 2018 that Chicago joined in a friend-of-the-court brief with a group of cities led by Columbus, Ohio.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday he's confident in the Chicago Police Department’s plan to handle any adverse reaction to the jury verdict in Jason Van Dyke’s murder trial.| Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday he has “absolute confidence” in the Chicago Police Department’s plan to handle any adverse reaction to the jury verdict in Jason Van Dyke’s murder trial, but fired police superintendent-turned-mayoral-candidate Garry McCarthy is not so sure.

Emanuel referred to, what he called “the Laquan McDonald incident” that defined his second and last term during the fourth annual employment champions breakfast hosted by the job-training umbrella group known as Skills for Chicagoland’s Future.

“I know there are many questions Chicagoans have and how the city will react to the verdict. As the jury is deliberating, I want all of you to know that I have absolute confidence in the Superintendent [Eddie] Johnson, his plan and the Police Department,” the mayor said.

“I have absolute confidence also in the residents of Chicago. This is our city and this is our home. And I hope everybody heeds the advice of Laquan McDonald’s family, the pastors, the community leaders to make their message heard … and do it in a way that’s respectful to the city that we all call home and the future of this city.”

Emanuel said he has seen that “cooperation and collaboration” this week in South Shore and on the West Side.

But he said, “whatever the verdict is, our work as a city is not done in bridging and helping build community relations between the Police Department and the residents.”

McCarthy, who was fired by Emanuel for becoming a “distraction” just days after the court-ordered release of the shooting video, had a dramatically different take on police preparedness.

Two months ago, McCarthy, who is running for mayor, accused the Chicago Police Department he once led of “facilitating criminal behavior” — and setting a dangerous precedent — by allowing a small group of protesters to shut down Lake Shore Drive during rush hour.

McCarthy argued then that the police permissiveness was even worse, given Johnson’s earlier decision to allow protesters to shut down the northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway — and march arm in arm with Rev. Michael Pfleger — during that protest.

On Friday, McCarthy pointed to those earlier protests in questioning whether his former department has the will to get as tough as it needs to be, if and when, as he put it, “protests start to turn into riots.”

“The police marched onto the Dan Ryan, which was breaking the law. The city shut down Lake Shore Drive to facilitate breaking the law. That’s lawlessness. How does that play out in what’s about to happen? That’s the big question,” he said.

“The department is completely on its heels and has been for two years now. I’m not sure that willingness to prevent the possibilities exists within the department.”

McCarthy was hailed as a modern-day Gen. Douglas MacArthur for his front-line 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 Avenue and Cermak Avenue.

On Friday, he pointed to that experience as an example of how protesters should be handled.

“If you think back to NATO, I talked about the fact that we were going to facilitate people’s First Amendment right to free speech. But we were going to be intolerant of criminal behavior. I haven’t heard that statement made by anybody,” he said.

“In my past interactions with elected officials, sometimes they don’t want us to take the actions that we need to take to prevent these things from escalating.”

On Thursday, the Chicago Police Department canceled days off and put officers on 12-hour shifts to bolster the force by up to 4,000 officers — in hopes that it is enough to handle any adverse reaction to the verdict.