A Runoff Means Open Season on Mayor 1%

Tonight, activists, organizers, and change makers around Chicago are celebrating a surprising turn of events. A mayor who has dealt devastating blows to some of the most marginalized members of our city was unexpectedly held accountable for his actions, and has been pushed into an electoral runoff with his most popular opponent, Chuy Garcia. Organizing for electoral campaigns has never been part of my movement building praxis, and that’s not about to change, but I did vote for Chuy today, because sometimes, in defense of our lives, our children, and our sick and wounded, I believe we simply need to do whatever it takes to bring down a target.

I feel sure that this is one of those times.

So, what does a runoff mean for an organizer like me, whose work isn’t specifically focused on electoral politics? It means it’s open season on a mayor who has closed our clinics, shuttered our schools, refused to push back against police violence, and who has left our most vulnerable neighbors to twist in the wind. Many of us have organized against this mayor for years, and we are still fighting for those who have died, and for those who are yet living. Our respective battles have now been met with an unforeseen window of opportunity, as this mayor has never been more vulnerable.

In other words, it’s time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Mass arrest during the campaign to prevent Rahm Emanuel from closing 50 schools, 80% of which were located in black communities. The schools were subsequently closed, despite months of protest. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)
Mass arrest during the campaign to prevent Rahm Emanuel from closing 50 schools, 80% of which were located in black communities. The schools were subsequently closed, despite months of protest. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

Those of you who follow my group’s work know that I have been sinking a lot of time and energy into the fight for reparations for CPD torture survivors. I have previously discussed my reasons for doing so, and will not dig deep into that reasoning here, except to say that justice is long overdue, and that we’ll never address the violence and abuse that plagues our communities until we hold this city accountable for the darkest deeds of its police. Granted, this would only be one potential victory in a much larger fight, but it’s an important one.

This campaign has never been closer to success than it has been in recent months, and this runoff only improves the situation for those waging this fight.

A recent living memorial for victims of police torture under Jon Burge lined an entire city block. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
A recent living memorial for victims of police torture under Jon Burge lined an entire city block. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

In short, for those of us doing grassroots work, news of this runoff is a memo that reads, “Game on.” It’s also a call to action to all those who believe in this cause who haven’t yet dug their heels in on this fight. This ordinance has the support of the UN, the majority of the City Council (although there’s a lot of sorting out to do there, with regard to aldermanic wins, losses, and runoffs), and the campaign for its passage has resonated with many Chicagoans. It has particularly struck a chord with members of communities that are deeply affected by Rahm’s crippling austerity measures and indifference to police violence. That should mean something to everyone in this city who believes that black and brown lives matter.

This mayor believed he could harm and ignore the most marginalized members of our communities without consequence by catering to his billionaire cronies. He believed that the multi-million dollar war chest he was handed by his wealthy out-of-town fans would mitigate the harm he had done here at home. He’s now been made to realize that things aren’t going to go his way that easily. So, let’s show him what the communities he doesn’t give a damn about are really made of. Let’s make sure he knows no peace in the next six weeks, and bring this haughty politician low. If tonight proves anything, it’s that we have that power.

I also want to take a moment to extend my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has already joined this fight. Your efforts have made a difference, and will continue to do so. Many of us don’t work on electoral campaigns, but we still help drive the course of politics. When those politics are a matter of life and death for our friends, allies, and neighbors, I am a big believer in harm reduction. Together, I know we can reduce the harm in our communities, and bring more of our allies and potential allies together to form a united front. I believe in us, and I believe that we will win.

For updates on events and organizing related to the reparations ordinance, follow the hashtag #RahmRepNow on Twitter.

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