A group of West and South Side pastors have announced that they won’t be attending Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s annual Martin Luther King breakfast on Jan. 15.
The event began under the late Mayor Harold Washington and has been held by subsequent mayors ever since, Emanuel told media during a Jan. 13 press conference.
“Every mayor has held it,” he said. “I’m going to continue to hold it as I have in the past and in the years ahead in this term. It is a time in which the city, regardless of our differences, comes together to honor Dr. King, honor his life, honor the message of his life and use that to re-energize ourselves towards economic and social justice.”
A continuous swirl of police-related controversy has followed the mayor since the release of the Laquan McDonald murder tapes last November — from the murders of West Side residents Bettie Jones, 55,and Quintonio LeGrier, 19, last December to the recent court-ordered release of the fatal officer-involved shooting of 17-year-old Cedric Chatman.
“The mayor has become a distraction,” said Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin. “He can stay in office the whole three years if he wants to, but he can also tear this city up, because he doesn’t have the moral authority to lead.”
Acree, who said he attended the breakfast the year before last, noted that the boycott was the brainchild of South Side clergymen like Rev. James Meeks and Bishop Larry Trotter. He said he and other West Side pastors, such as Rev. Marshall Hatch and Rev. Paul Jakes, were standing in solidarity with their South Side counterparts.
Acree said he was particularly “appalled” at the most recent controversy that has embroiled the mayor’s office — this one involving the city’s law department. Early this month, a federal judge ruled that a senior city attorney intentionally withheld dispatch recording during a trial involving the city and the family of a man who was shot by a Chicago Police officer during a routine traffic stop in 2011. The recording would’ve disputed the testimony of the police officer who shot the fatal round.
The attorney who withheld the evidence has since resigned, but the mayor announced that he would nonetheless appoint former federal prosecutor Dan Webb to conduct a third-party review of the law department.
Legal experts say the city’s law department will likely undergo more specific training programs, with a greater emphasis on ethics. But Acree said more training and the supervision of Webb won’t fix the mayor’s accountability problems.
“If the mayor’s lawyers concealed evidence — who is the client? The mayor,” Acree said. “The mayor keeps trying to pin this on everyone else — his lawyers, the police department. But his lawyers represent him. That’s what’s so frustrating,” he said.
“With regards to Webb, the U.S. Justice Department isn’t bringing him in, the mayor is bringing him in. He gives his results to the mayor. Webb is a hired gun. They say, the lawyers will get more training, but does Little Pookie’s momma get to say her son didn’t get proper training or education in order for him to avoid going to jail or being disciplined? I’ve never seen anything quite like this — the manner in which Emanuel is disrespecting our community.”
Acree said, although he won’t speak for the late civil rights icon, he imagines that Dr. King would be disappointed with the state of African-Americans today.
“Families are still fragile, police and community relations are at an all-time low, we don’t have elected officials who truly belong to us. Most have been hijacked by party bosses like Emanuel, Madigan and others. But I imagine he’d be pleased to know, however, that there is a remnant in Chicago and across this metropolis that refuses to buckle to the modern-day pharaohs. We continue to fight back and make the case for liberation and economic empowerment.”