Can Rahm Emanuel keep his grip on Chicago?

Chicago's mayor is under fire from protesters for failing to release the video of Laquan McDonald's shooting by a white police officer 13 months ago. 

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times Media via AP
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at a news conference in Chicago, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, where he announced the firing of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and discussed the creation of a newly created task force on police accountability. The firing of McCarthy came a week after the release of a dash-cam video that showed a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times.

Chicago has an unfortunate reputation as a corrupt city with a long history of law enforcement officials infamous for civilian brutality, including torture

But a video that went viral around the world last week may mark the beginning of reforms in the city.

The video, which was released November 24th, was recorded on a police squad car dashboard camera and shows the gruesome shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Jason Van Dyke, a white police officer. The city of Chicago withheld the video for 13 months until a freelance journalist in Chicago went to court to force the city to release the video publicly.

Mr. Van Dyke is now being charged with murder. McDonald’s family was given $5 million from the city – before they even filed charges. While Chicago braced for potential riots that some expected after the release of the video, protests in the days following were relatively peaceful and only a few arrests were made.

And protesters did not go unheard.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel condemned the shooting, calling it a “hideous action,” even as he pleaded that protests remain peaceful. Then, under pressure following a week of protests, Emanuel fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy. 

“There are systematic challenges that will require sustained reforms,” Mr. Emanuel told reporters at a news conference, according to The New York Times. “At this point and this juncture for the city, given what we’re working on, [McCarthy] has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue, and a distraction.” 

Now, protesters want Emanuel to step down as well.

Emanuel is one of the nation’s most high-profile mayors after having served as President Obama’s chief-of-staff, but his unpopularity worsened immensely after the McDonald video. Activists claim Emanuel covered up the video and did not take leadership in charging the officer until 13 months after the shooting took place. Protesters are demanding that Emanuel to step down.

"A leader has to be held to account for the code of silence that continues to exist in the Chicago police department," Craig Futterman, a Chicago civil rights lawyer told US News & World Report. "He has to acknowledge it and address it."

Emanuel claims the video was being withheld for sensitivity purposes during the court trial.

I’m responsible,” Emanuel said. “I don’t shirk that responsibility. I have taken certain steps prior to this date. I’m taking steps today. As I told you, this is a work in progress and finding a solution. It’s not the end of the problem.” 

Emanuel has made no announcements indicating that he is considering stepping down.

"All along, Mr. Emanuel’s response, either by design or because of negligence, was to do as little as possible – until the furor caused by the release of the video forced his hand," wrote The New York Times Editorial Board. "The residents of Chicago will have to decide whether that counts as taking responsibility."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Can Rahm Emanuel keep his grip on Chicago?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today