The Irish Times
Pressure on Chicago mayor to resign
Street protests after release of video of police shooting dead black teenager Emanuel’s apology over withholding of footage fails to assuage anger
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel endured the toughest week of his four-year tenure as protesters called for him to step down over his handling of the killing of a black teenager by a white police officer.
The politician, a former congressman and the first chief of staff to President Barack Obama, has come under fire for the city’s decision not to release a video of the 2014 killing for more than a year.
Demonstrators took the streets of the Windy City two weeks ago after the release of a police dashboard camera video showing a knife-wielding Laquan McDonald (17) being shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke as he walked away from police on a Chicago street.
The video was only released on a court order after the officer was charged with first-degree murder.
A week after the video was released, the mayor, despite initially backing Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy, ousted the police chief, saying public trust had been shaken.
An apology from Mr Emanuel this week didn’t sate the fury of protesters and an Illinois state legislator La Shawn Ford has introduced a Bill that would allow him to be removed by a recall vote.
“Resign Rahm!” and “Rahm has got to go!” shouted demonstrators who took to the streets of Chicago and entered city buildings this week.
In an at times emotional address to the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, the often pugnacious Mr Emanuel struck a conciliatory tone, attempting to calm tensions and ease the pressure on him by apologising and taking a share of the blame.
“I own it,” he said. “I take responsibility for what happened, because it happened on my watch. But if we’re also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step, and I’m sorry.”
Protesters did not buy his response. One, quoted by the Chicago Tribune called the emotion shown by the mayor during his mea culpa “crocodile tears”.
“This is not a black problem, this is a democracy problem,” yelled a female protester. “We don’t want your apology, we want your resignation!”
Pressure grew on Thursday after NBC Chicago reported that Mr Emanuel and his staff were aware of the existence of the dashcam video two months after the shooting.
Mr Emanuel and Chicago’s police had already been under pressure for failing to stem the city’s rates of murders and gun violence which are among the highest in the United States.
Despite unpopular cuts in the cash-strapped city’s budget leading to school closures and teacher layoffs, Mr Emanuel won re-election in April after a run-off.
He had failed to win a majority in the city’s general election two months earlier.
Nicknamed “Rahmbo,” he is well known for his salty language. He famously sent a dead fish to a political enemy in 1998.However, he appears to have miscalculated the anger over this controversy, acting only when he appeared he had to.
His approval rating has plunged to 18 per cent in a poll published by an Illinois newspaper on Tuesday. A majority of voters, 51 per cent, said he should resign over the scandal.