Kim Janssen, February 16, 2018, Chicago Tribune
Within the last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been heckled on out-of-town campuses on the West Coast and in the Midwest about his plans for a new police academy. Now it looks as if he’ll add an East Coast Ivy League academy into the mix.
A group of 35 students and community group members at Harvard University have signed an open letter protesting Emanuel’s forthcoming Feb. 20 onstage conversation at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, complaining that the event “erases how destructive Emanuel’s policies have been to Black and Brown residents of Chicago and to the City of Chicago as a whole.”
The letter — which complains that the $95 million being spent on a new police academy would be better spent on schools — echoes comments directed at Emanuel by handfuls of hecklers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Jan. 19, and at the University of California, Los Angeles, on Feb. 12.
Chance the Rapper championed the cause of funding schools instead of a new police academy at a City Council meeting in November. But his plea had little effect: Aldermen voted in favor of funding the first step of the mayor’s proposals, 48-1.
Still, it has become clear that Chicago activists have the ability to rally allies on campuses nationwide for what once would have been a parochial concern.
In Los Angeles last week, Emanuel laughed off the protests, telling his audience that he “didn’t realize there were that many direct flights” from Chicago. In Ann Arbor, Emanuel attempted to engage the protesters, who continued to chant at him. Some in the audience booed the hecklers.
Emanuel’s spokesman Adam Collins said that in both cases “the vast majority of audience members themselves made it clear they were annoyed with the interruption.” He added: “Anyone who has spent any amount of time on any college campus has probably protested something at some point. There’s really no surprise here.”
Collins also noted that President Obama’s Justice Department recommended that Chicago Police need new training facilities.
But the Harvard protesters accuse Emanuel of doing too little to halt the decline in the size of Chicago’s black population and write that, “As future and current designers, urban planners, policy-makers, organizers and educators, we cannot disregard the people who are in danger because of Rahm Emanuel’s administration.”
Expect another bumpy ride in Cambridge this week.