City Hall

Same activists who won justice for Laquan set sights on City Council races

Millennial activists who demanded justice for the murder of Laquan McDonald on Wednesday set their sights on a “complicit” City Council and urged millennial voters notorious for their political indifference to get involved.

“We need you to collect petitions. We need you to door knock. We need you to donate. And we need you to raise money for these candidates who are running against your incumbent,” Kina Collins, founder of the Chicago Neighborhood Alliance, told a City Hall news conference.

“Several of the incumbents … have voted against the self-interest of the people in vulnerable communities. That has got to stop. The next target that we hope to hit is City Council. … This is our chance. If you haven’t participated three years ago … in the economic shutdowns and the protests that were happening, this is the way you can participate.”

Collins noted that the young activists who took to the streets after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video made three demands, all of them now fulfilled.

They wanted State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez out — and she was defeated by Kim Foxx.

They wanted then-Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy fired — and Mayor Rahm Emanuel obliged within days of the video’s release.

And they wanted Emanuel to resign. That didn’t happen, but the mayor last month did pull the plug on his own re-election bid.

Kina Collins (left), founder of the Chicago Neighborhood Alliance, and mayoral candidate Ja'Mal Green (center)

Kina Collins (left), founder of the Chicago Neighborhood Alliance, and mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green (center) were among those attending a City Hall news conference Wednesday. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

“With so much to be proud of accomplishing, the large elephant in the room is how we plan to hold the rest of the system accountable. And the facts remain that City Council has failed us,” she said.

“The silence of the current aldermen, particularly in the Black Caucus, has been deafening — especially when communities of color are the hardest hit by police brutality. The fact that they quietly tried to administer — or did administer a [$5 million] settlement [to the McDonald family] without letting the constituents know makes them complicit in the cover-up of Laquan McDonald.”

Last week, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one count for every shot he fired at McDonald.

Fresh off the first conviction of an on-duty Chicago police officer in 50 years, millennial activists held a news conference, joined by millennial mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green, candidate Troy LaRaviere and many of the young aldermanic candidates vying to unseat entrenched incumbents.

Some of the candidates attending are running in the same ward against each other.

Jose Luis Torrez is running against the City Council’s most powerful and longest-serving aldermen: Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke.

Burke (14th) has had a political bull’s-eye on his back ever since his brother, state Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, was defeated by a political newcomer backed by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in a primary race dominated by Edward Burke’s property tax reduction work for the riverfront hotel and condominium tower that bears the name of President Donald Trump.

Burke has since cited “irreconcilable differences” for his decision to stop representing Trump. But that won’t stop Torrez from making it a campaign issue.

“The community still got hurt. The community lost $14 million. Those are services that did not go to the mental health clinics. Services that are not going to our potholes,” Torrez said.

“Although he’s not representing him anymore, the damage has been done. You just can’t … wipe away all of the history you’ve done with Donald Trump.”

Burke could not be reached for comment.

Emanuel is promising to spend his money and his time to help re-elect incumbent aldermen who have taken a series of difficult votes just to help him begin to solve the city’s $28 billion pension crisis.

On Wednesday, the mayor said he’s all for young people getting involved in politics. But he won’t let voters forget the heavy lifting incumbent aldermen did to bring Chicago back from the financial brink.

“I remember where we were eight years ago. We were running $630 million in red ink annually. Twenty percent of the budget was out of whack. … Gains for our kids academically were at risk. The size of our police force was at risk. And companies were gonna be leaving the city,” the mayor said.

“Eight years later because of a lot of hard work [by] aldermen here, not only are our finances stable. Academically, our kids are setting records. We’re growing the Police Department … by 1,000. And rather than companies and jobs leaving, Chicago is five years consecutively the No. 1 city for corporate relocations.”

Emanuel acknowledged that “activism, energy is a good thing” in politics.

But, he said: “Aldermen here have done the hard work of righting a ship that wasn’t right. And it took a lot of courage to get that ship right.”