Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said that he supports the intent behind Ald. Ed Burke’s (14th) “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance, which considers attacks made against police and firefighters hate crimes. He just wished it would have had a different name.
Any crime against an individual solely because of that individual’s ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is prosecuted as a hate crime.
The ordinance would make police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other first-responders a protected class like ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. Attacks against certain minorities that are proven to have been motivated primarily by their ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation are prosecuted as hate crimes. Burke’s ordinance would require attacks against first responders to be treated similarly.
During a 29th Ward community meeting held July 6 at Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd., Taliaferro, a former police officer, explained that he thought Burke’s ordinance would help protect individuals who put their lives on the line every day, but felt that he couldn’t support the legislation’s name because of what it implied.
The aldermen said he supported the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement and that he felt that the Blue Lives Matter slogan was an attempt to push back against those goals.
Burke introduced the ordinance during a June 22 City Council meeting. The alderman is himself a former police officer, and his chairmanship of the council’s Finance Committee makes him one of Chicago’s most powerful politicians.
Many observers, including Taliaferro, believe that the Blue Lives Matter movement arose in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 15, Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) organized a Blue Lives Matter rally to support police officers and to push back against what the aldermen described as abuse the officers were taking in the wake of the release of the video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald.
According to DNAinfo Chicago, Sposato wrote on his personal Facebook page that the event wasn’t a response to Black Lives Matter movement. Taliaferro, however, said at the community meeting that he believes the Blue Lives Matter movement is a direct response to “Black Lives Matter.”
“If it was meant to be conversant with Black Lives matter, that blue lives matter, too — we know this already,” Taliaferro said. “The intention behind Black Lives Matter is honorable, and, to me, the intention behind Blue Lives Matter isn’t honorable.”
Taliaferro lauded Black Lives Matter as “an excellent organization,” adding that it “brings attention not just to (police) brutality, but to the violence in our communities.”
The alderman also told attendants at the meeting that Burke’s ordinance was originally presented to him as a way to help protect first responders. He said that he and some of the legislation’s co-sponsors objected when they found out the proposed ordinance’s name.
“That isn’t a title that should be given to any ordinance,” he said, adding that the title needlessly politicizes what’s already obvious — that first-responders deserve support and protection. Taliaferro praised District 15th commander Dwayne Betts and his officers for their part in reducing crime in Austin, especially during the 4th of July weekend.
“We have thousands of good [cops], we have thousands of firemen who risk their lives to go into burning buildings, we have thousands of paramedics,” Taliaferro said. “When there are people doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing, we won’t stand behind that. Changing (the title) is what’s good for the city. (Not) making it Blue Lives Matter versus Black Lives Matter.”
During the meeting, Taliaferro also said that he, along with other members of the Progressive Caucus, support holding more public hearings on Chicago police reforms beyond the two hearings that have been scheduled. He said that he and other caucus members believe the meetings should be in the evenings, when more people can attend them.
The first such hearing will take place on July 21, 6:30 p.m., at Malcolm X College on the Near West Side.