After a week of heated protests and calls for her resignation, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and African-American leaders condemned Chicago’s police union and defended how the prosecutor’s office addressed an actor’s alleged hate crime hoax.
Foxx vowed to remain at her post during a Saturday news conference, despite intense controversy sparked in March when her office dropped a 16-count indictment that accused television actor Jussie Smollett of orchestrating a racist and homophobic attack on himself to advance his career.
Foxx declined to address “the substance of the case” with reporters gathered at the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters, though she’s faced mounting pressure to specify why Smollett’s prosecution was so quickly abandoned.
But U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, activist Ja’Mal Green, Jackson and a group of other Foxx supporters blamed the city’s Fraternal Order of Police for a Monday confrontation over the Smollett case that displayed some of the city’s racial and political divisions.
“The FOP is the sworn enemy of black people, the sworn enemy of black people,” said Rush, who drew criticism in the city’s mayoral election when he suggested supporters of Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot would have the blood of African-American youth killed by the police on their hands.
“The FOP has always taken the position that black people can be shot down in the street by members of the Chicago Police Department, and suffer no consequences,” Rush said, as an aide pulled Foxx out of television cameras’ view. “Let’s be clear: Kim Foxx, her battle, is with the FOP and all of their cohorts.”
Hundreds of protesters faced off outside Foxx’s downtown office earlier this week, pitting police union members who demanded Foxx’s resignation against counterprotests from groups including the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
Members of white extremist groups were said to have participated in the union’s demonstration. A police union official has rejected that assertion, but Foxx criticized the union’s protests as “personal.”
“The injection of white nationalists in this conversation for me, I will tell you personally, I was afraid,” Foxx said Saturday.
“I would certainly hope that the FOP and whatever their disagreements with me may be, whatever concerns that they may have about my ability or leadership, would at least expect the people of their union to not inject racism or white nationalists into the conversation.”
The union on Saturday described Rush’s comments as “ignorant, offensive, malicious, and false,” and continued to demand that Foxx resign from office.
“These outrageous and irresponsible comments have demeaned each and every Chicago Police Officer, regardless of their race,” the union said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who blasted prosecutors’ decision to drop all charges against Smollett as a “whitewash of justice,” said Foxx needs to focus on answering questions about the case but that he’s “totally against” the idea of her stepping down.
A former assistant state’s attorney in Foxx’s office filed a petition seeking a special prosecutor to look into the case and determine whether Smollett should be recharged with staging a hate crime and whether Foxx or people who work for her interfered with the investigation.
A former Illinois Appellate Court judge also requested a special prosecutor investigation, and a group of suburban police chiefs gave Foxx a vote of no confidence.
The city has demanded that Smollett repay Chicago $130,106 — the cost of the police overtime hours expended in the investigation into his allegations. The actor missed a city-imposed Thursday deadline to pay or face further legal action.
“The efforts that I’ve had on criminal justice reform that were once celebrated by many in this county, that are now being attacked because of one case and one celebrity — I think we have to ask ourselves: What is this really about?” Foxx said.
“I have never, will never, speak ill of our partners in this work,” she said. “Even though there are challenges between any relationship, you have never seen the Cook County state’s attorney stand in any podium, stand in any room and disrespect or disregard any of those partners.”
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