Asserting that former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s role in covering up the police murder of Laquan McDonald disqualifies him from consideration as U.S. ambassador to Japan, a coalition of activists held a Tuesday press conference condemning his nomination ahead of a scheduled Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday—the seventh anniversary of the Black teen’s death.
“Rewarding Rahm Emanuel’s cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s murder with an ambassadorship is not an act that reflects a value of or respect for Black lives.”
Speaking at the press conference, Aislinn Pulley of Black Lives Matter Chicago said that Emanuel “conducted the largest closing of public schools in the entire history of this country,” while shutting down “half of the city’s public mental health centers.”
“That was before he covered up the video of the murder of Laquan McDonald,” she said, lamenting that Wednesday—which “marks seven years since Laquan McDonald was murdered”—is also the date of Emanuel’s Senate confirmation hearing.
“That is an intentional slap in the face of not just the movement here, not just Laquan McDonald’s memory, not just Laquan McDonald’s friends and family who are still grieving and still mourning him, but the entire movement nationwide,” Pulley alleged.
“Last year we had over 27 million people in the streets in this country, demanding change, putting their… bodies on the line,” she continued. “We were beaten, we were kicked, we were sprayed with chemicals… we were arrested, we were put in jail.”
“Twenty-seven million people, the largest movement this country has ever seen,” Pulley said, “and the response to that… by the current president of this country is to give an honor to the mayor who covered up the murder of a young person.”
Meeting with relatives of George Floyd on the one-year anniversary of the unarmed Black man’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020, President Joe Biden proclaimed the need to “collectively say enough of the senseless killings.”
However, the #RejectRahm coalition maintains that “no president who is truly serious about stopping brutality and murders by police would nominate Rahm Emanuel for an important government post.”
Pulley asserted that Biden is sending a message “to the entire country” by nominating Emanuel and “rewarding him for… one of the most heinous acts that he has done… as mayor of this city.”
RootsAction, which has been coordinating a nationwide petition campaign against Emanuel’s nomination, says more than 40,000 emails have been sent to U.S. senators urging them to reject the appointment. Progressive U.S. lawmakers including Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) have also voiced their opposition to Emanuel’s nomination.
“Black Lives Matter can’t just be a slogan. It has to be reflected in our actions as a government, and as a people,” Bowman has said. “Rewarding Rahm Emanuel’s cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s murder with an ambassadorship is not an act that reflects a value of or respect for Black lives.”
Justice for Families member Dorothy Holmes, whose son Ronald Johnson was shot in the back by a Chicago police officer in October 2014, said that “Rahm Emanuel covered up the murder of my son.”
“Rahm Emanuel does not deserve to be the ambassador of anything,” she argued. “Rahm Emanuel belongs behind bars.”
Crista Noël of Women’s All Points Bulletin said in a statement that “clearly the U.S. and Biden’s administration is tone-deaf to Chicago’s Black community’s trauma in regards to the Laquan McDonald murder or they would not have scheduled the vote on the day of his death.”
Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, said he was not surprised by Emanuel’s nomination.
“What’s most disappointing about this decision is that there’s no reason for us to be surprised that the mainstream leadership of the Democratic Party, represented by Biden, [Vice President Kamala] Harris, [Senate Majority Leader Chuck ] Schumer [D-N.Y.], and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.], not to mention our own Sen. Dick Durbin [D-Ill.], would push for such a horrible choice,” he argued.
We demand US Senators @SenatorDurbin, @SenDuckworth & others vote NO on the approval of Rahm Emanuel’s nomination as US ambassador of Japan. Do not reward a man who covered up the murder of a Black child, closed Black schools, and hurt Chicago's Black community! #RejectRahm pic.twitter.com/HPsqoPYEOe— US Palestinian Community Network (@uspcn) October 19, 2021
“Party progressives, Latinx and other immigrants, Black people, Arabs, and other oppressed communities were the forces that defeated [former President Donald] Trump,” Abudayyeh added, “but we still get taken for granted by a party and its leaders who seem to have no idea which way the wind is blowing; their own days are numbered as well.”
Kina Collins, a local community organizer and activist running for U.S. Congress, said that “for 400 days, Rahm Emanuel tried to cover up the truth of what happened to Laquan McDonald.”
Do you remember Laquan McDonald? He was a Black child murdered by a CPD officer, which was covered up by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This Wednesday will be the 7th anniversary of his murder. On the same day, the Senate is holding a hearing for Rahm's ambassador nomination #Thread— Kina Collins for IL7 (@KinaCollinsIL) October 18, 2021
“For 400 days we marched, organized, and protested for the release of the police dashcam footage, because we know that too often, police lie when their own careers are at stake,” Collins continued. “And for 400 days, that officer escaped justice, because Emanuel was more concerned with his own reelection than he was with justice for a child murdered on his watch. This is a complete slap in the face to Black America.”
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