Mayor’s Meeting With Black Clergy May Have Made His Standing In Black Community Worse
by Mike Fourcher – email@example.com
Last Tuesday, with pressure building on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to release the dash-cam video of Laquan McDonald’s shooting, the Mayor held a trio of morning meetings with three different groups of Chicago’s African-American leadership: youth leaders, Black clergy and members of the City Council Black Caucus.
According to reports provided to Aldertrack from some of those present, the Mayor made a pair of missteps just as he was attempting to earn the trust of the Black community, and may have actually worsened his standing.
Asked for comment, a mayoral spokesman said, “We do not comment on private meetings.”
Held in a City Hall meeting room with about 25-30 clergy members seated around a U-shaped table, the clergy meeting was the second of three held in quick succession, in different rooms. According to accounts given to Aldertrack, Mayor Emanuel came into the room, briefly shook hands, mentioned he'd only gotten two hours of sleep the night before, and quickly got to business explaining the facts of the McDonald shooting as he understood them.
“It was a little tense. People were really concerned about the truthfulness of the video. They wanted to get more information concerning that. A lot of the guys wanted to hear the Mayor’s side of the story,” said Washington Park-based Pastor Corey Brooks, who was in the meeting.
After explaining the content of the video, Emanuel condemned the actions of the shooter, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, but then told the assembled pastors that he had not yet seen the dash-cam video. His admission startled many in the group.
“We were all a little surprised that he had not watched the video, but then he called it ‘hideous’,” said Rev. Brooks.
“You signed off on a $5 million check to an orphan. You don’t tell me you don’t see the tape. That doesn’t compute for me,” said radio personality Carl West, who attended the meeting and referred to 17 year-old Laquan McDonald’s status as a ward of the state when he died.
“I believed him,” that he didn’t see the video, said South Side youth center director Rev. Torrey Barrett, who also attended the meeting. “The reason is that I’ve experienced it myself in the past, something so horrific people have said, ‘You don’t want to see this.’”
The Mayor then asked the group to stress peaceful protest through the Thanksgiving weekend and to avoid violence.
“He encouraged us to encourage the community to exercise their first amendment rights, but to do so peacefully,” said Rev. Barrett. “The point of the meeting was how to encourage that peaceful protest.”
According to attendees, the Mayor then told the group that if there was violence over the weekend, he would not be able to find resources to bring jobs into their community.
“He said, if things go bad then don’t come looking to me for jobs,” said Rev. Brooks.
“There was something about how if you don’t encourage peace, don’t look to me for resources,” said Young Leaders Alliance head Jedidiah Brown, who was also present.
According to multiple people, Rev. Brooks then interrupted the Mayor, “I told him that was insensitive, it was unfair to hold us accountable if anything went wrong and that we would not get jobs.”
The Mayor then backtracked, according to Brooks and others. “He said that what he meant was that resources he’d use to get jobs [would have to be] use[d] to clean up the city of Chicago,” following violent protests.
“From what I got out of it, like any other city, if there’s unpeaceful protests, the city takes an economic hit because of it,” said Rev. Barrett.
All agreed that following the jobs discussion, the group got testier.
Brown asked if Mayor Emanuel would fire Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. The Mayor refused to do so, “Because the Superintendent has done some things that have improved the culture of the Police Department,” Brown says the Mayor told the group.
There were a few more questions, like why the city awarded $5 million to the family of the ward of the state, and why the Mayor didn’t just go against union rules to fire Van Dyke.
“He took some tough questions, I was impressed with that,” said West.
But soon after, Mayor Emanuel had to go to his next meeting, with the City Council Black Caucus. In just a few hours he would release the McDonald video and watch it for the first time, along with the rest of Chicago.
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