Despite an apology from Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the handling of the Laquan McDonald case, protesters are not backing down from their demand that he resign.
The same day a visibly emotional Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel apologized for the handling of the Laquan McDonald case during a speech before the city council, hundreds of activists took to the city's streets Wednesday demanding his resignation.
"I am the mayor. As I said the other day, I own it. I take responsibility for what happened because it happened on my watch. If we're going to fix it. I want you to understand it's my responsibility with you. But if we're also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step. And I'm sorry," Emanuel said during his speech at this morning's special city council meeting.
Protester Mark Clements -- a survivor of the torture committed under former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his officers -- called Emanuel's apology "too late" and a "smack in the face."
"There have been people who have been killed and executed as a result of these shootings," Clements said Wednesday afternoon as he and other activists marched in the city's Gold Coast neighborhood. "We're still dealing with Jon Burge and his tortures, which got over 100 people still locked inside the prisons. The mayor can apologize all day long, but you cannot bring the victims back."
Protesters kicked off their march at the Daley Center as part of a citywide "walkout" calling for Emanuel and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign. The protest follows Monday's announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that it is launching a broad civil rights investigation into the CPD's practices, a probe Emanuel had initially called "misguided" but later said he welcomes.
Marchers made their way through the city's downtown and North Side streets, eventually reaching the Archbishop's Residence at 1555 N. State Parkway, where they held a speak-out before disbanding.
"We want to send a clear message to Rahm that there is no more negotiations. There is no more talk. There is no more sorry. All we want is for him to hand down his resignation," protest organizer Rousemary Vega said outside the Archbishop's Residence.
Activists chanted "Anita and Rahm must go!" and "16 shots!" during the hours-long march. The protest was mostly peaceful, though there were some scuffles between activists and police near Dearborn and State Streets. Two protesters were taken into police custody near that intersection, but were ultimately released and not arrested, according to organizers, including Jedidiah Brown with the Young Leaders Alliance.
Here's video of scenes from today's protest:
Protester Zakiyyah Muhammad said Emanuel's apology and the efforts proposed in his speech to improve the public's trust in the police department "didn't mean anything" to her, "because he's a liar."
"We don't trust him, and he never cared about the black community," she said. "He closed down six mental (health centers), most of them were in the black community. Then he closed down 50 schools, most of them in the black community. Then he was in that shady episode with Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was the fall guy who he used. Then he's sitting on (millions of dollars) of CHA [Chicago Housing Authority] money that can be building houses for working low-income families. So he doesn't care about black people. To hell with his speech ... It didn't touch us. It just makes me dislike him more."
During his speech, Emanuel addressed the "code of silence" among police when it comes to misconduct, saying: "We cannot ignore or excuse wrongful behavior, especially when it costs the life of another. Police are not protecting the city when they see something and then say nothing."
Speaking later to reporters, Emanuel said he doubted the "code of silence will melt away" immediately as a result of his speech.
"But by being public about it, honest about it and putting it front and center is the first part of actually 'tearing down the walls' that exist as part of a code of silence."
Valerie Johnson, DePaul University's political science department chair, was among those marching. She criticized Emanuel for not taking greater action sooner to improve police accountability in the city.
"For him to say he apologizes, it was almost as if he just woke up this morning and realized that there was injustice in the police department. There has been a pattern of injustice in the police department way before he took office, but he should have put it in check. He had a whole term to do that. He did not do that, so he must go. We need new leadership," she said.
Johnson added: "We don't want any more task forces. We don't want any more appointments. What we want is for Rahm to resign and Alvarez as well."
Alvarez has come under fire for taking more than a year to charge Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder in the October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald. Alvarez, as well as Emanuel, say they have no intentions of resigning.
Emanuel spoke to the council Wednesday about police misconduct and accountability after two trying weeks in the city, sparked by the November 24 court-ordered release of dash-cam video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.
City Hall fought to keep the McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year, citing investigations into the incident, until a judge ordered its release last month. Alvarez brought charges against Van Dyke just hours before the footage went public.
In remarks to reporters after Wednesday's council meeting, Emanuel expressed regret about not challenging the city's practice of withholding tapes and other evidence from the public before cases have concluded, so as not to jeopardize those investigations.
"Just because that's how we've done it, I should have along the way challenged the entire legal team and others about a practice that was actually undermining the very value that I think is essential for the public safety and the wholeness of the city," he added. "I should have given voice to the public's growing suspicion, distrust and anger ... I needed to actually add a sentiment that I did not give voice to. It was a sentiment of the public ... that while, yes [the investigation is] going on and we want to protect the integrity, you need to have the sense of urgency of justice."
Speaking to reporters after Emaunel's speech, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said she accepted Emanuel's apology and believed it was "100 percent" sincere.
"The apology was important to me, because you are the executive of this city. You are the mayor. And when something goes wrong in any department, you are the owner of it," she said. "You are gonna either scold that department head, remove that department head. But in this instance, your police department has scorned our city, so you have to be the one to step up and say, 'Give me a chance. Let me fix it.' And that's what he did.
"I believe that the mayor is not gonna just say this in this instance, because he has to right the ship, and this is what's going to right the ship. Because you got to show. You can't just talk. You have to show that you're going to do" it, Austin added.
As for the public's trust in Emanuel, Austin said: "Trust is earned, and he has to earn it back."
"There'll be some that won't trust him at all. There'll be those that will be suspicious of [him], but you have to stand on what you believe, and I know that he believes in exactly what he said."
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) acknowledged that a "portion of the public will be skeptical" of Emanuel's proposed police accountability efforts laid out in his speech.
"Some people will give him the benefit of the doubt, but the real question becomes how fast will these reforms be implemented, and how genuine are the reforms? And that is going to be the true test," he told reporters.
Austin and Brookins are members of the council's Black Caucus, which released a seven-point plan this afternoon designed to mend the relationship between the CPD and the city's black community. The plan calls for the prosecution of police who file false reports as well as "serious consideration" of installing an African-American CPD chief.
Following release of the McDonald shooting video, Emanuel fired former police chief Garry McCarthy as well as the head of the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police-involved shootings. He also announced the creation of a five-member police accountability task force that will study police oversight, training issues, transparency and accountability and report back with recommended reforms by March 31.
Emanuel said the task force "will not be guided or directed" by his office and will look at the practices of the police department's internal affairs bureau as well as IPRA, which has found less than 1 percent of the more than 400 fatal and non-fatal police-involved shooting complaints that have been investigated since 2007 to be justified.
Protesters as well as some aldermen are skeptical of the mayor's task force.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) takes issue with the task force in part because it "doesn't have anybody on it from the public." He introduced a resolution Wednesday calling for council hearings with a range of stakeholders, including community members, police violence survivors, law enforcement officials as well as faith and elected leaders, to "ensure that the task force itself -- as well as its investigative practices and the recommendations that follow --meaningfully represent the values of the people of the city of Chicago and address their needs."
For his part, Emanuel described the task force as "a work in progress" and said it will engage with the community through hearings and subcommittees "in the community with community representation to get a fuller perspective and participation."
Waguespack introduced another resolution Wednesday seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Jason Van Dyke case.
Alvarez's "failure to launch adequate investigations into potential criminal liability of officers of the Chicago Police Department is a breach of legal obligation to the residents of Cook County," reads the resolution, which also calls for a special prosecutor to handle "all other cases against law enforcement officers that are currently pending or may arise from ongoing investigations into police misconduct."
The alderman, meanwhile, said reforms are needed beyond the police department to make positive change in Chicago.
"I don't see things changing until, again, we change what happens on the fifth floor, all the way throughout each one of these departments that were involved," he told reporters. "Everybody operates in their own silos, and until we change that and the DOJ comes in and gives us the recommendations that we're gonna need, nothing's gonna change.
"I'm not saying that it's just his fault. It's the whole system's fault. It's our fault as aldermen for not pressuring. But I think this goes back to not just this the Laquan McDonald video, but a whole style and approach to government that's been secret, pushing back whenever the public wants information, and that's got to change as well," Waguespack added. "When the (inspector general) says he needs subpoena power, give him the subpoena power. When the council asks for documents, don't say attorney-client privilege and push back against us for everything that we want to see for the public. That's got to change. So the attitude of the fifth floor's got to change before the whole city can change."