CHICAGO – A pall hangs over the Chicago elections scheduled for February 26. It is the ghost of Laquan McDonald, murdered by former officer Jason Van Dyke, covered up by his fellow officers, elected officials Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ousted State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, and nearly all the members of the City Council. The January 17 exoneration of three other officers who cooked their reports to cover for Van Dyke was followed the next day by Van Dyke being sentenced to fewer than seven years for the murder.
Police murders, massive school closings, shutting down half the city’s mental health facilities, and a housing and homelessness crisis are issues fighting their way into this election cycle. The people, abandoned by their elected leaders, are calling on new forces to answer their demands. The established incumbents, nearly all Democrats, have shown their inability to respond to their constituents. A thousand strings and ropes tie them to the corporations who buy them. On this page you will see some of the new voices who are fighting that old machine. But it’s not just about candidates. What’s important is that the old political apparatus cannot contain the anger of the people they have discarded. Harold Washington said it best, when he declared about his own candidacy, “It’s not the man, it’s the movement.”
This election, much like the trials associated with Laquan McDonald’s murder, is a school for visionaries who want a new society. In those trials, we celebrate that activists fought for and got the release of the murder video as well as drove out of office the police superintendent, the Cook County state’s attorney, and even the mayor of Chicago. We got the first police officer in 50 years convicted of a killing while on duty. But because power does not reside in the grasp of we-the-people, those victories were undermined in the courts. The set back will not stop us. We are now being summoned to answer how we can come together across the city and make our demands the center of what those in the halls of power are debating. Out of the wreckage of the old machine something new is struggling to be born. Working in this election cycle can let us be the midwives of a new day.