Saturday night, a group of activists and allies took to the subway in Chicago to make some noise about this week’s election and the much discussed reparations ordinance. The ordinance, which would provide care and compensation to individuals tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge, will not be on the ballot but the man who has prevented it from getting a hearing before the City Council will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The majority of the City Council supports the ordinance but, in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, such details aren’t really relevant. Emanuel has never seen police torture victims, or other victims of police violence, as a political priority. Given this mayor’s overall treatment of communities of color — shuttering dozens of schools and clinics in black communities — his failure to prioritize the safety and dignity of those most affected by police violence is unsurprising.
The horrors of the Burge years aren’t the kind of thing Rahm Emanuel factors into his day to day, high-powered cronyism. Addressing the harm done to people of color who were coerced into confessions, after being held at gunpoint, suffocated, terrorized, and subjected to genital electrocution, doesn’t put money in any millionaire’s pocket. It doesn’t feed any ongoing scheme to pick our pockets as we travel through the city and it doesn’t privatize any public services. It’s also a fairly disturbing and complicated subject, and therefore not the kind of feel-good sound byte opportunity that a mayor up for re-election might hope for.