ROUNDUP: Policing and pandemic politics take center stage in Chicago

The racial reckoning ignited by the police killing of George Floyd played out on city streets and at City Hall as Illinois gradually reopens from COVID-19 restrictions.

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Photo by Max Herman

Demonstrators march up Montrose Avenue during a youth-led Black Lives Matter protest from Horner Park to the District 17 Chicago police station in Albany Park on June 11, 2020.

Protests and actions have continued to take place across Chicago and Illinois weeks after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, with many now calling for defunding the police department (and county jail) in favor of neighborhood investment, education and social programs. Meanwhile the economic pain and fallout of the pandemic continues to play out as officials sign off on more relief measures and the state advances in its gradual reopening.

Here’s your roundup of all the key news developments you may have missed this week.

Topics: Juneteenth | Reparations | Police in schools | Reforming instead of defunding CPD | Campus police | Civilian oversight of CPD | Police union pushback | CPD consent decree | COVID-19 relief budget | Eviction cliff | Small businesses | Voting by mail | Unemployment | Protest fallout | Columbus statue | Racial reckoning for restaurants | Free food programs | Black-Brown race relations | Pandemic behind bars

Happy Juneteenth: An increasing number of Illinois companies are giving employees the day off today for Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, marking the day that enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Like every year, celebrations are planned across the city and many black-owned restaurants are offering Juneteenth specials

FROM THE ARCHIVES:

Human rights practices inform Chicago ordinance in police torture case


City Council approved a resolution honoring the day but stopped short of declaring it an official city holiday because it would cost too much to give city workers the day off, Lightfoot said. The state has not acted on bills proposed last year to make Juneteenth a state holiday, One Illinois reports. 

Reparations under discussion: A measure to create a subcommittee on the city paying reparations was also approved by the City Council this week. Only two aldermen, Anthony Napolitano and Nicholas Sposato, who had been criticized for defending officers caught on tape lounging in Rep. Bobby Rush’s office while looters targeted businesses nearby, voted against the measure.  

Several Chase Bank branches were temporarily closed this week amid protests demanding the nation’s largest bank increase lending in Chicago’s black neighborhoods, with some calling for billions in reparations from JPMorgan Chase, after an investigation by WBEZ and City Bureau found gaping racial disparities in capital flows.

Chicago instituted a reparations program in 2015 specifically for victims of notorious ex-police Cmdr. Jon Burge, whose unit tortured scores of Black men into false confessions over two decades. 

Policing politics


Police to stay in Chicago schools: As school districts across the country break ties with police, Lightfoot reaffirmed her opposition to removing school resource officers from Chicago Public Schools as a proposed ordinance to end the $33 million contract between the district and CPD was sent to the Rules Committee, where legislation is known to die. 

COMMENTARY:

What’s the alternative to police in schools? Restorative justice.

Reforming, instead of defunding, Chicago police: As calls to “defund the police” gain traction across the country, including in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, Chicago remains the biggest U.S. city that hasn’t made specific moves to reroute policing money to social programs, Chicago Tribune reports. Aldermen are pushing competing proposals: one to defund CPD and another that would make it harder to cut its budget.  

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has opted for reform measures, creating a working group of 20 community members to review the Chicago Police Department’s use of force policies. The Fraternal Order of Police has demanded the resignation of the group’s co-chair Arewa Karen Winters, whose great-nephew Pierre Loury was killed by CPD officers at age 16.

Lightfoot also supports the idea of licensing police officers, a possibility that has the backing of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and some police chiefs

Cook County resolves to redirect police funds: A resolution advanced by the Cook County Board to “redirect money from the failed and racist systems of policing” doesn’t make any changes to next year’s budget but is expected to guide discussions, Chicago Sun-Times reports

Campus police criticized: Students at the University of Chicago held a sit-in at the University of Chicago Police Department headquarters to demand the dismantling of the school’s police force while Northwestern University says it’ll rethink police operations on campus and dedicate $1.5 million to advance social justice efforts in response to calls for the school to divest its police forces and reallocate funding to serve black students and communities. 

Police oversight proposals pushed: Hundreds rallied in the Loop Wednesday calling for community oversight of CPD, specifically a longstanding proposal to create a Civilian Police Accountability Council. The mayor’s office has long been working with the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, a coalition of community organizations, to create a civilian led oversight board. 

Police union fights longer shifts: FOP sought a ruling from the federal judge overseeing the consent decree to block officers from being placed back on 12-hour shifts as a “precautionary measure” to prepare for further resurgence of protests, to no avail

Preserving the record: The Illinois Supreme Court rejected an effort by the Fraternal Order of Police to destroy police complaint records more than five years old, saying that the preservation of important public records overrides a provision in the police union’s contract. 

CPD misses most reform deadlines: Independent Monitor Maggie Hickey’s second report on how the Chicago Police Department is complying with a federal consent decree says that the city missed over 70% of its court-ordered deadlines in the latest reporting period.

COVID-19 crisis continues


Billion dollar COVID-19 relief budget passes: Lightfoot’s roadmap to spend $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds was approved by City Council. A group of nine progressive aldermen who wanted a commitment that none of the funds be used to pay police were the only ones to vote against the measure. 

COVID-19 housing relief: City Council approved Lightfoot’s proposal to create a $20 million rental assistance fund as well as a measure to give tenants facing eviction a seven-day grace period to negotiate a deal with their landlord. The measure is meant to buffer against the wave of evictions expected when the state lifts its moratorium, now extended through July 31.

More expansive eviction protection measures proposed by progressive aldermen were sent to legislative purgatory, Block Club Chicago reports. Meanwhile, some landlords have resorted to illegal measures including shutting off electricity and changing locks to push out tenants struggling to pay their rent, Chicago Sun-Times reports

COMMENTARY:

Asian Americans invisible in COVID-19 data and in public health response


Pritzker announces more relief measures: Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that more than $900 million in grants from the federal coronavirus relief package is available to renters, homeowners and small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest over the death of George Floyd. $270 million is specifically set aside for struggling child care centers. South and West Side preschools in particular face the closing at the end of this month due to lost funding, WBEZ reports. 

The governor is also expanding two emergency assistance programs, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program, or LIHEAP, and the Community Services Block Grant, and making changes to programs that help lower income Illinoisans. 

South and West Side businesses face especially tough road ahead: Between pandemic closures and looting, many minority-owned businesses are struggling to recover as Illinois reopens, threatening recent development. 

Minority cannabis entrepreneurs further delayed: Illinois is further delaying granting dispensary licenses to social equity applicants meant to diversify an industry making record sales but overwhelmingly dominated by white men. 

Illinois moves to make voting easier: Pritzker signed laws making Election Day a state holiday and temporarily requiring officials to automatically send vote by mail applications to people who have voted in recent elections and instituting other changes ahead of the November election due to concerns about in-person voting during the pandemic. 

Unemployment: While the pace of unemployment filings has slowed significantly, new numbers released Thursday were higher than expected, signalling a longer-term recession. In Illinois, 1.5 million individuals or about 23% of the state’s workforce has filed jobless claims since the pandemic began, with last week’s new filings about even with the previous week even as businesses reopen, CBS Chicago reports

Protests and racial fallout continue

RELATED:

Chicago police arrested more people for protesting than for looting in early days of unrest, contradicting original claims



Policing priorities in question: Controversy continues to swirl around police tactics in response to unrest in Chicago after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. The Chicago Reporter found that the vast majority of arrests on the weekend of May 29, when large scale protests gave way to looting across the city, were made for protest-related charges such as disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, not looting as officials originally claimed. CPD has since revised its data but also removed access to the data portal used to conduct the analysis.

Officials investigate: The court appointed monitor overseeing implementation of a consent decree to reform CPD is planning an investigation and report on the city’s handling of the protests and CPD announced a new data portal for complaints against officers during the protests and unrest. Lightfoot and Superintendent David Brown condemned officers seen covering or removing name tags and badges during protests, as reported by The Chicago Reporter. 

Lightfoot stands by Columbus statues: As Christopher Columbus statues have been removed around the country, Lightfoot said she doesn’t want Columbus statues that have been vandalized in Chicago to be taken down, but instead used to educate people about the full history of the U.S., Chicago Tribune reports

Racial reckoning for businesses, restaurants: As protests continue to take place across the country and force changes and commitments from major brands and corporations, some Chicago restaurants are also facing blowback after being blasted on social media with accusations of racism and abuse. Chicago Tribune reports on the complicated relationship between many Arab store owners on the South and West sides and the black communities they serve. 

Free food programs: The Chicago Freedom School, one of many neighborhood groups to offer free food programs in recent weeks, was controversially handed a cease and desist order for arranging transportation and food for protesters. 

Black-Brown truce: South Side Weekly and Block Club Chicago detail how residents and neighborhood leaders worked to quell racial tensions between Black and Latino communities that emerged during the unrest as well. 

Pandemic behind bars


Trial delays: Chicago Tribune details the plight of inmates in Illinois who had their hearings for shortened sentences delayed due to the courthouse shutdown due the pandemic. A defendant awaiting trial petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the Illinois Supreme Court’s orders suspending the state’s speedy-trial law during the pandemic, the Chicago Law Bulletin reports. 

Immigrant detainees: A Chicago group is continuing to push for releasing immigrants as a COVID-19 outbreak has created unsafe conditions at an Illinois center for detainees who are already delayed by a backlogged immigration court system, AP reports.  

Josh McGhee contributed to this report.