Mayor Lightfoot refused to join public forum on justice for Anjanette Young

By Alex Kogan |
December 31, 2020
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Chicago, IL – On December 28, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declined to participate in a public forum organized by Anjanette Young and her attorney, Keenan Saulter, to discuss transparency, accountability and justice for Young in the wake of the botched police raid and coverup perpetrated against her.

Previously, Mayor Lightfoot told press that she’d asked for a direct meeting with Young, saying, “I’d like to have that conversation with her in person, and I will see whether or not my request is granted.”

According to attorney Saulter, Young sought a private meeting and public forum with Lightfoot, Police Superintendent Brown, and seven alderpeople from the Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus. After receiving pushback from the mayor’s team on the inclusion of only those alderpeople, Young and Saulter invited all 50. The forum would take place with select members of the press immediately after the private meeting, in a socially-distanced event at Progressive Baptist Church, which has a capacity of 1500 to 2000 people.

But in a December 28 meeting with city of Chicago Acting Corporation Counsel Celia Meza, Saulter was reportedly told that Lightfoot would agree to the private meeting, but not the public forum. Meza advised that Lightfoot would instead speak to the press after the meeting, addressing reporters while Young and the alderpeople stayed inside to engage in the public forum.

“To be clear, this means that the mayor declined Young’s request to meet with her in the manner that Young had requested - a manner that was best for her, her healing and transparency,” said a statement from Saulter.

No more raids: The people demand justice for Anjanette Young

In a December 17 virtual press conference, leaders of the movement against police violence demanded justice for Ms. Young, expressed the need for an entirely new accountability framework, and called for passage of the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).

Now, the mayor’s rejection of the public forum for transparency represents another denial of justice for Young, and a refusal to let the victims and the community dictate the terms of their own healing process. Saulter states the lawsuit against the city will proceed. The movement, too, is set to proceed with its fight for change and for CPAC.

“You have the wrong place”

Anjanette Young, a social worker of over 20 years, was wrongfully raided by Chicago police on February 21, 2019. Acting solely on an unverified tip from a confidential informant, officers rammed through Young’s door and surged into her home in search of a 23-year-old male suspect they believed to be residing there.

Young, who had just gotten out of the shower and was preparing for bed, was handcuffed and left standing completely naked in her living room as armed police swarmed through her home. Bodycam footage from nine male officers shows police refusing to adequately cover her or let her get dressed, ignoring and belittling her as she tells them at least 43 times that they have the wrong home.

The suspect they were looking for, who had no connection to Young, was nowhere to be found. He lived in a different unit in the same building, which CPD could easily have confirmed with prison authorities, because he was wearing an electronic monitoring device at the time of the raid.

Yet the injustice perpetrated against Young didn’t end there. After the raid, the city fought to keep bodycam footage out of public view, with a coverup reminiscent of that in the Laquan McDonald case.

Another coverup

Last year when Young filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the bodycam footage from the raid on her home, the Chicago Police Department denied her request. When the news station CBS 2 filed their own request for the footage, they were denied as well. It was only after Young filed a lawsuit that CPD was forced to turn over the video under orders from a federal judge.

Then, just hours before CBS 2 aired their report featuring the video, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s legal team filed an emergency motion to block the footage from the public and sought legal sanctions against Young and her attorney Keenan Saulter. A judge denied the city’s motion as the report was being broadcast.

Once the footage went public, Mayor Lightfoot at first denied having known about the case at all before the report aired. When asked why Young’s Freedom of Information Act request was denied, she falsely claimed Young had never filed one, and berated the journalist who asked the question for “reckless and irresponsible” reporting. Meanwhile, the motion for sanctions against Young and Saulter remained in place, eliciting outrage from activist leaders.

The next day, Lightfoot acknowledged she was wrong about the FOIA request, and withdrew the motion for sanctions after considerable backlash. She also admitted she had been made “generally” aware of the case over a year ago but maintained that she hadn’t seen the video and didn’t know about her legal team’s attempts to hide it or sanction Young’s attorney.

The people demand justice

In the wake of the publication of the raid footage, activists in the fight against police violence have made wide-ranging demands for reform and accountability. Many have compared the handling of the incident to that of the Laquan McDonald case, and concluded that a new mayor has not meant a new status quo.

“It’s so very similar to Laquan McDonald, and he was not the first,” said Arewa Winters, a participant in the December 17 press conference. “There are many Laquan McDonalds. Anjanette Young was not the first, there are many Anjanette Youngs. And until we get criminal charges [against cops] things will never change for us in this city.”

On behalf of the 411 Movement for Pierre Loury/Justice for Families, Women’s All Points Bulletin, Black Lives Matter-Chicago, and GoodKids MadCity, Winters read out a list of demands, including a guarantee that people can receive videos they appear in within a week of their request, mandatory charges and terminations after incorrect raids, assault charges for pointing guns at innocent civilians, policies on providing clothes to naked individuals or else the incident is deemed sexual abuse, and compensation for victims for all damages up to and including civil rights violations.

Yet the primary demand was not for more professionalized raids, but for an end to raids on personal homes altogether. Not for individual reforms, but an overhaul of the system.

The city of Chicago does not accept such change willingly. In its first year under a court-ordered federal consent decree to reform its police department, the city has missed 70% of the deadlines issued in that decree. As part of that decree, a community working group spent months drafting recommendations for changes to the department’s use-of-force policies, but CPD rejected all but five of the 155 recommended changes, and 25 of the 34 members of the working group called the process a sham.

As for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), which is tasked with handling complaints of police abuse, a report released in September that showed that COPA missed its deadline to publicly release more than 25% of videos of police violence that it is responsible for sharing.

In fact, COPA did not open an investigation into the raid on Young’s home until CBS 2 broke the story nine months later. On November 25, 2020, over a year after starting the investigation and nearly two years since the raid, COPA stated that they were still in the process of serving allegations and hadn’t even finished conducting officer interviews.

Fight for CPAC

Because neither the mayor’s office, nor COPA, nor any existing government body has delivered justice for Anjanette Young, leaders of the movement are renewing the call for an entirely new framework for combating police abuses, as evidenced in the December 17 press conference. Multiple speakers echoed the position that nothing short of community control of the police can deliver the necessary change, and that only CPAC presents a viable path to such a framework.

The Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) ordinance would establish an all-civilian, all-elected council with representatives from each police precinct. This council would have the ability to hire and fire the police superintendent, head of COPA, and members of the police board; rewrite CPD and COPA policy; investigate abuses and determine disciplinary actions; and negotiate the CPD union contract, among other powers.

“This most recent incident underlines the desperate need that we have in this city for community control of the police. We need a fully-elected democratic body that represents the people of the city of Chicago that will not engage in coverups, but will actually ensure that police officers are disciplined, that there’s accountability when these incidents occur, and that they do not happen again,” stated Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa of Ward 35, who first introduced the CPAC ordinance into the city council.

The CPAC ordinance currently awaits a vote in the Public Safety Committee and has undergone updates with substitute language to improve its viability. It now has the support of 19 alderpeople and would require 26 votes to pass or 34 to make it veto-proof.