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Chicago elections and what’s coming next

By Joe Iosbaker |
April 4, 2019
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 Jeanette Taylor at protest against FOP's racist demonstration.
Jeanette Taylor at protest against FOP's racist demonstration. (Fight Back! News / Staff)

Chicago, IL - The corporate media has missed what is most important about Chicago’s April 2 elections. Its focus on the uninspiring mayoral contest between Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot helped contribute to the lowest voter turnout ever. Only 29% of registered voters went to the polls.

What this election did see was a record number of young candidates challenging incumbents, and the greatest amount was in the Black wards of the city. According to Aislinn Pulley, an organizer with Black Lives Matter-Chicago, “What was significant were the young activists - mostly Black and Latino - that fought neighborhood by neighborhood.”

In addition, the agenda of these candidates was progressive. There’s been a polarization on the issues, and while there were fault lines along race and class, the most militant positions had to do with police terror.

Jeanette Taylor was elected alderperson of the 20th Ward, one of the poorest on Chicago’s South Side. After her victory, she wrote to her supporters, “This does not happen without the fight for Dyett, the struggle for a trauma center, the fight for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), or the campaign to bring a Community Benefits Agreement to the Obama Center,” and, “If the next mayor wants to close Black schools, lay off Black teachers, protect killer cops, and force Black and Brown and working-class people out of this city, she will have a City Council fighting her at every step of the way.”

Dyett School was threatened with closure by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In 2015, Taylor helped to lead a hunger strike of parents to save it. She then joined a fight led by Southsiders Together Organizing for Power to compel the elite University of Chicago to open a trauma center on the South Side of Chicago.

Jackson Potter, one of the founders of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) in the Chicago Teachers Union, said at the victory party for Jeanette Taylor, “For the first time in history, a Chicago mayor will face a strong city council.”

Chicago cops stage racist protest before election day

One of the platforms in the progressive agenda is for community control of the police. The morning before the election, the racists in the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) showed the need, according to Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, “for the Black and Latino communities to have democratic control over who polices their communities and how they are policed.”

The FOP brought out over 100 people, including members of three white supremacist organizations, to protest in front of the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney. The cops, along with Emanuel, were incensed at State’s Attorney Kim Foxx when her office dropped charges against actor Jussie Smollett, who had been accused by the Chicago Police Department of staging a hate crime against himself.

The context for the FOP’s anger is that last year, for the first time ever, a cop (Jason Van Dyke) was convicted of murdering a Black person, and that Black and Latino communities in Chicago are demanding CPAC.

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, BLM, Southside Organized for Unity and Power, and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network counter-protested. They were joined by Jeanette Taylor, previous candidate for mayor Amara Enyia, and the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of the historic Trinity United Church of Christ. Addressing the FOP, Rev. Moss said, “You’re going to be outraged by this, but you weren’t outraged by Laquan McDonald?”

Pulley thought the protest had to happen, and added, “What was really important was to have Jeanette there, fighting with us. It shows we have a new day in Chicago.”

Poised to fight for CPAC

After the run-off elections, there are now 17 members of the city council who have endorsed the CPAC legislation, nine of them from the crop of new activists. Five of the new alderpeople – Taylor, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Andre Vazquez, Daniel LaSpata, and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, will join Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in a Socialist Caucus. There are still two ward elections with insurgent CPAC candidates that are too close to call. If both William Calloway and Marianne Lalonde win, CPAC would have 19 supporters in the council.

After the election, Chapman spoke out against Lightfoot. “I submit that Lori Lightfoot is the Trojan Horse presented to us by the business barons of the Magnificent Mile, the outgoing regime of Rahm Emanuel, and the Fraternal Order of Police. While commentators, reactionary pundits, and misguided, self-deceiving people in our movement are praising Lightfoot as a triumphant first Black, openly gay woman to be mayor of a major city, they are ignoring her role as president of the Police Board. She was not a reformer, but a heartless vindicator of police brutality and murder. 

“But let me quickly add that what we have won in terms of new seats on the city council is far more important than what we lost in the mayoral election. The wins of Byron Sigcho Lopez, Jeanette Taylor, and other progressives and CPAC supporters has set a new stage for struggle for our movement.”

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