By Michael Sainato

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s public image has been on a downward trajectory since December 2015, when reports surfaced that Emanuel’s administration actively worked to cover up the October 2014 police murder of 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald so it wouldn’t interfere with the mayor’s re-election campaign. His approval ratings have consistently hovered under 30 percent, making him the least popular Chicago mayor in modern history. Emanuel’s recent project to build a new police academy, estimated to cost $95 million, have revived criticism toward the mayor’s office from activists and residents who would rather see those funds invested into the community.

On Jan. 19, Emanuel was heckled during a speech he gave at the University of Michigan over his Westside police academy project. More than 50 Chicago community organizations have endorsed the #NoCopAcademy campaign led by activists working to halt the project.

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tour of affluent universities—encouraging audiences of largely young, white soon-to-be graduates to move to the city—is another glaring example of his role in pushing Black people out of Chicago,” the organizers of #NoCopAcademy said in a statement emailed to the Real News Network. In announcing the campaign, opponents of the police academy noted that Emanuel closed six schools in the neighborhood of the proposed academy, while the city already spends $1.5 billion annually on its police department.

“During his time in office, Mayor Emanuel’s anti-black divestment from communities like West Garfield Park have had far reaching, devastating effects: He’s closed more than 50 public schools and shuttered half the city’s mental health clinics. Now he is attempting to close all public high schools in the Englewood neighborhood–all while expanding funding for the Chicago Police Department.”

In November 2017, Emanuel pushed his police academy project through the Chicago City Council, where members voted in favor of it 48 to 1. The lone dissenting vote, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, noted that the police academy would do nothing to remedy the issues rampant in the Chicago Police Department outlined in the United States Justice Department report in January 2017. Emanuel and the city still need to figure out how to appropriate the $95 million in funds for the project, as activists continue to campaign and organize community leaders and the public to stop it.

”The movement for Black lives in Chicago has been centered around justice, accountability and community control of the police.  We’re the reason why Rahm put together a task force to investigate the crimes committed by CPD.  We’re the reason the DOJ came and studied the systematic abuses and practices of CPD. In none of our demands have we asked for so-called better training for officers,” Kofi Ademola, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Chicago, told the Real News Network in an interview.

Ademola said that the Chicago Police Department already has paid out over $100 million in civil cases for police misconduct and murders, while several officers remain on the force despite long records of excessive force. “We want that money to go towards community revitalization, mental health care clinics, youth employment and after-school programs.  It’s a slap in the face for the city to invest so much into our occupation and incarceration, while simultaneously closing schools and keeping TIF funding and resources away from the south and west sides of Chicago.”

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