CHICAGO (CBS) — In a State of the City Address, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday said a series of police reforms would be enacted within the next 90 days, and announced a $10 million fund to support small businesses that have been affected by looting in recent days.
The mayor decried racism and police misconduct, but expressed anger at looters as well.
Mayor Lightfoot began by decrying the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.
“I have watched all of the video coverage of George Floyd’s encounter with the four, shameful Minneapolis police officers who took his life. I say all four, and not just the one who had his knee on his neck. All four were complicit. None followed their training, none intervened, and all felt entitled to abuse the privilege and honor of their badge to rob George Floyd of his humanity, his future and his life,” she said.
Mayor Lightfoot also emphasized the ugly brutality that involves centuries of history for Black Americans.
“For Black Americans—our history is paved with the racism and violence of the original sin of slavery, the open wounds from the slave masters’ whips, the rope marks from the lynching tree, blood spilled by the billy club, the dogs and the fire hoses—to all of that, we now must add a knee to the neck to the list of violence intended to break us,” she said.
The mayor emphasized that such history in Chicago goes back at least to the Red Summer violence of 1919, and is about people who died at the hands of Chicago Police such as Laquan McDonald, Quintonio LeGrier, Rekia Boyd – as well as police Cmdr. Jon Burge, who became infamous for allegations of torturing people into confessions.
“It’s for that very reason that I stand with those who are sick and tired of the lack of fundamental change. Change that results in the respect, dignity, and freedom that Black people deserve in this country,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “To the thousands of people here in Chicago and across the country who engaged in peaceful, non-violent protests for change, I stand with you. To those who have come out to express our shared righteous indignation in ways that give honor to George Floyd and are consistent with the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and so many others who believe in the power of non-violent social change, I stand with you.”
But the mayor said she could not and would not condone any looting or violence.
“I will never stand for letting our pain spill over into violence and destruction against our communities. I will never stand for stealing the dreams and livelihoods of our neighbors. I will never stand for abandoning our values and our love of this city,” she said.
She pointed out a number of people who saw their businesses looted or destroyed, such as a man in Hyde Park who is piecing back together a 50-year-old store that his parents built “in the face of racism from Jim Crow.”
The mayor said she also mourned “for our young people who are clearly hurting, who don’t see a future, for whom the light of hope in their eyes is dimming, and is in danger of being extinguished.”
Mayor Lightfoot also called the marginalization of many Chicagoans a form of violence unto itself – paraphrasing Robert F. Kennedy.
“This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. We see it throughout our city. It manifests as a life expectancy gap that is exposed within a 15-minute drive between adjoining neighborhoods. As a city where 44% of all households don’t earn enough to cover essentials like housing, child care, food, transportation and health care,” the mayor said.
The “system of violence” must be rooted out, Mayor Lightfoot said. She added that she loves the city deeply and wants to see it succeed.
“I am a Chicagoan. And as a Chicagoan, I am a fighter. I don’t back down from a challenge. And I protect what I love,” she said. “This is our challenge. We know what we must do. We have always known. Full justice, true justice—equity and inclusion amongst all human beings is the only solution.”
When it comes to the immediate future in Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot emphasized solutions with regard to police reform.
“It means implementing the police accountability reform measures I laid out as the head of the Police Accountability task Force – ones that build bridges between police and community. I will be working with the Superintendent and department leadership to implement a number of these measures within the next 90 days, ones critical to solving our crisis.”
The measures will include better and different training for police officers in which community members will be in the academy as teachers, expanding programs such as My Block, My Hood, My City that provide officer with youth-led tours of neighborhoods, training officers on de-escalation and use of force, implementing a “real officer wellness program” to assist officers in crisis, and establishing a new-recruit program on police-community relations.
“This is just a start, not the end of our journey for police reform and accountability,” the mayor said.
Further, the city will devote at least $10 million in funds to help small businesses that have been harmed in recent days. That action will be taken immediately – with an equity weighting focusing on the South and West sides.
The city will also soon have an announcement on insurance support for businesses.
“Now is the time to cut through red tape, stop hiding behind small print, get your adjusters out into the neighborhoods and start cutting checks,” Mayor Lightfoot said.
The mayor also reiterated that $1.2 million were recently invested in mental health resources at the community-based level.
“My brothers and sisters, even in the midst of our broken hearts from our brother George who was ruthlessly taken away, and so many here in our city, before and after Laquan McDonald, we need to remember and cherish our great strength: that is of course our diversity – 77 neighborhoods strong, each unique and beautiful; 140 plus languages, but we all speak in unison. We hail from many backgrounds, worship different Gods, but we are all united as Chicagoans. We cannot fail, we will not fail. We will not be distracted by those who are not pure of heart and mind. They are not us and we are not them. We will and must be united together around a singular vision that we rise and fall together,” the mayor said. “If there is to be an uprising, let it be for peace. I call on all people of good will, young, old, black, brown, white, Asian, from all faith traditions, to rise up with me for peace. Stand for peace.”