Following the city’s most violent weekend of the year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered a message calling for more attention on the criminals and lack of morals behind Chicago’s bloodshed rather than solely criticizing the police and his leadership of the city.
Several of the 10 challengers looking to defeat Emanuel in next February’s election, however, engaged in plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking, and all fingers were pointed at the mayor after a weekend during which 12 were shot dead and another 62 were wounded.
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas slammed Emanuel for failing to keep the police staffed with enough detectives to solve the thousands of shooting cases it encounters each year. Former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot criticized Emanuel for remaining quiet while dozens were being shot in the streets. Former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy mocked the mayor on Twitter and said Chicago should be declared in a “state of emergency.” And activist Ja’Mal Green said Emanuel should quit hiding behind Police Department brass and acknowledge his failure to properly invest in economically downtrodden neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
Inside the Gresham District police headquarters, an at times emotional Emanuel recalled calling a shooting victim’s mother and visiting medical teams at Mount Sinai and Stroger hospitals who tended to the scores of wounded Chicagoans over the weekend.
“Look, we have a heavy heart. Our souls are burdened,” Emanuel said. “What happened this weekend did not happen in every neighborhood in Chicago, but it is unacceptable to happen in any neighborhood of Chicago. We are a better city.”
The weekend marked the worst violence of any single weekend in Chicago since at least 2016, the year in which homicides hit records unseen for two decades. Sunday included more victims shot in a single day since at least January 2012, a few months after the Chicago Tribune began tracking every shooting in Chicago.
After Emanuel concluded his news conference at the South Side police station, Vallas and Green were lined up for their turn at the microphones.
Vallas accused Emanuel of allowing the Police Department’s detective division to be “gutted through attrition” and moving officers around to various areas of the city for “political reasons” instead of strategic ones. Both of those help contribute to spikes in crimes and the city’s dismal rate of solving murders, shootings and carjackings, Vallas said.
“What happened over the weekend is absolutely horrific and unacceptable. It’s another tragic weekend in Chicago, and unfortunately, we’ve had too many of them,” Vallas said while announcing a plan to rehire retired detectives. “There is no substitution for providing the police resources we need to close this gap, because unless you get these killers off the streets and these shooters off the street, you’re going to continue to have weekends like this into the future.”
Green called for more jobs, development and city spending in the violence-plagued neighborhoods.
“Look around. We have vacant lots. Everything is boarded up. These are neighborhoods that are looking for real investment,” Green said as he pointed to the intersection of 78th Street and Halsted Avenue in Auburn Gresham. “We have boarded-up schools, boarded-up businesses, and they’re knocking down houses and no plans to redevelop them. So what type of hope are you giving to these communities? There is no hope in these communities. People are in survival mode.”
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who is running for mayor despite a long-running federal corruption investigation into her office, also called for better schools and investments in struggling neighborhoods to “fix the social ills that plague our city.”
Brown stopped short of criticizing Emanuel, but Lightfoot did not, issuing a statement that declared “public safety is the right of every Chicagoan, not a question of zip code or a commodity for the wealthy.”
“As mayor, I will confront our city’s gun violence crisis directly and with empathy rather than remain silent as more than 70 people are shot in a single weekend,” Lightfoot said. “Rahm Emanuel cannot sit this out — he’s the mayor, and our city is facing a public health crisis. Taking on gun violence goes far beyond policing: it’s about ending poverty and reversing decades of disinvestment through quality schools, career training, social services, and jobs in neighborhoods that have been ignored for too long.”
Emanuel did briefly address the weekend violence during a Sunday afternoon event announcing $10 million in city upgrades to the downtown Riverwalk, which McCarthy and Vallas both criticized.
“Has wasteful Rahm even seen the South and West side? $10 MILLION would be a tremendous help to residents, especially children that live in poverty from these neighborhoods,” McCarthy tweeted. “Instead, he wants to waste more on an already perfect downtown attraction.”
McCarthy also tweeted CBS-Ch.2 footage of Emanuel dancing at a Chicago Housing Authority music festival on Friday. “What is the mayor’s plan for Chicago’s state of emergency?” McCarthy tweeted. “Dance to fight crime. #EvictEmanuel #McCarthy2019.”
When Monday began, Emanuel was not scheduled to have any public appearances. But as the national coverage of the shootings continued, Lightfoot criticized him for being silent and Vallas scheduled a news conference, the mayor’s schedule was updated for him to join police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a news conference at the Gresham District station.
Emanuel and Johnson repeatedly sought to deflect questions about police staffing and strategy by calling on community members to step forward and identify the perpetrators behind the scourge of shootings that left 74 people shot.
“Everybody is pointing at somebody. The criminal, the criminal activity, the gang have to be raised, not just ‘what did the police do?’ ” Emanuel said. “Legitimate questions, but not in lieu of another set of questions, not in lieu of asking where is the individual or the gang or the culture who condones rather than condemns?”
A reporter then asked Emanuel how he would change the culture that feeds the violence. Visibly frustrated, the mayor rejected the question’s premise — that the solution rests with him alone.
“You said, ‘how do I?’ That is not the question of what a moral community is. I apologize. That’s not the right question,” Emanuel said. “Every time we do this, it’s a finger pointing at somebody else without also asking a larger question. It’s not just what I … I will take my responsibility on the moral component, and I’ll take also where I have fallen short, but the question is as if by pointing one finger at one person that’s now how you, in and by itself … (it’s) all of us collectively.”
Johnson defended Emanuel’s efforts to turn around struggling neighborhoods and keep kids off the street while calling the mayor “CPD’s biggest supporter.”
“The Chicago Police Department can’t do it alone. Mayor Emanuel has made significant investments in mentoring at-risk youth and creating job opportunities in some of our most challenging neighborhoods, but he can’t do it alone. We need everyone, especially our judicial partners, to start making repeat gun offenders feel the real consequences for their actions,” Johnson said. “We need the community and community leaders to work with us. We need parents to be parents. We need neighborhoods to be neighborhoods. You all know who these individuals are. They come to your homes every day, sleep with you every night. Grandparents, parents, siblings, significant others: You know who they are. … We need everyone to come to the table with less talk and more action.”
The weekend violence drew national news coverage. Several networks aired Emanuel and Johnson’s news conference live, and some national reporters were on hand in addition to the usual local ones. “It’s like a war zone in parts of Chicago right now,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said after that network’s coverage of Emanuel’s remarks. “I’ve covered wars and it’s an awful, awful situation.”
Also contributing to the national attention: former New York City Mayor and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani weighing in on Twitter. McCarthy worked in the brass of the New York Police Department while Giuliani was mayor, and in an interview earlier this year McCarthy said he was “very close” with the former mayor.
Giuliani, though, twice incorrectly referred to McCarthy as “Jerry” instead of Garry in a pair of Sunday tweets, in which he also called Chicago’s former top cop a “policing genius” who was among the people behind a program that reduced shootings in New York. On Monday morning, Giuliani also incorrectly tweeted that there had been 63 murders in Chicago over the weekend while saying Emanuel’s legacy would be “more murders in his city than ever before. It’s only because of Democrat brain washing that he has even a chance of remaining. Support police professional Garry McCarthy.”
By Monday afternoon, McCarthy distanced himself from Giuliani, who also has contributed $5,600 to the former top cop’s campaign fund. Giuliani has emerged as Trump’s leading public spokesman as the president has sought to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“I am a proud Democrat and I do not agree with Mayor Giuliani’s political views and I certainly remain opposed to the misguided, divisive tone and policies of Donald Trump,” McCarthy said. “I cannot say strongly enough how saddened I am to see ‘America’s Mayor’ stand with a president with whom I am diametrically opposed.”
Ties to the Republican president, who is deeply unpopular in Chicago, have been a narrative McCarthy has been fighting ever since Emanuel aired a web ad in which Trump refers to McCarthy as a “phenomenal guy.” The mayor’s campaign also has highlighted an overlap of donors between the Trump and McCarthy campaigns.
“I also categorically disagree that Democrats — as Guiliani suggested — are responsible for Chicago’s tragic gun violence,” McCarthy said in his statement. “The blame lies squarely with Rahm Emanuel’s weak leadership and failed policies.”
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