The Senate is set to hold its confirmation hearing for former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday ― the seventh anniversary of the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald that Emanuel notoriously covered up.
President Joe Biden tapped Emanuel earlier this year to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, sparking anger and disappointment among progressive activists, Chicagoans and Black leaders. The former mayor and top adviser for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday to face questions regarding his qualifications.
In 2014, then-Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times as the Black teen was walking away. For at least a year after McDonald’s death, Emanuel and his administration actively blocked the release of a video showing Van Dyke killing the teen. It was only after Emanuel was reelected in 2015 that a state court ordered city officials to release police dashcam footage of the shooting that differed significantly from the initial police account demonizing McDonald.
The shooting and release of the footage resulted in widespread protests in Chicago. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced in 2019 to just under seven years in prison, though he is potentially eligible for parole in February. Emanuel left his post as mayor the same year Van Dyke was sentenced, deciding against a third term after becoming the least popular mayor in modern Chicago history.
Emanuel’s nomination as ambassador to Japan has prompted backlash from local grassroots organizers and lawmakers alike. While Senate Democrats, including Illinois’ Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, have remained either quiet or allied with the politician, multiple progressive House members spoke out against his nomination. Democratic Reps. Mondaire Jones (N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) have all called for the Senate to reject Emanuel’s nomination.
A spokesperson for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that Biden hopes Emanuel will bring his “commitment to public service” and policymaking experience for the U.S. to strength its relationship with Japan.
Kina Collins, a Chicago activist running against Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), said that the fact that no one in the Illinois congressional delegation “has spoken out for Laquan McDonald” is “unacceptable on every level.”
“Rahm Emanuel’s nomination for this ambassadorship alone is a slap in the face to the entire Black community in Chicago, and to Laquan McDonald and his memory. This week’s hearing is emblematic of Rahm Emanuel’s complete disregard for Black lives, and his continued disrespect to a family he’s already harmed so gravely. His nomination must not be confirmed,” Collins said in a statement on Monday.
“But to hold this hearing this Wednesday, the day that marks the 7-year anniversary of Laquan’s murder, is unthinkably callous. It is the result of a system that consistently and relentlessly devalues Black lives,” she continued, adding later: “For Rahm Emanuel to agree to a hearing date that marks the anniversary of the day a child was killed on his watch exposes his craven desire for power.”
Collins and other organizers held a press conference earlier on Tuesday outside the Chicago Police Board calling for the withdrawal of Emanuel’s nomination. The activists came from several racial justice organizations, including Black Lives Matter Chicago, GoodKids MadCity, the Arab American Action Network and Make Noize for Change.
“The fact is, when it boils down to it, Rahm Emanuel should not be appointed, should not be even thought of when it comes to any public office in the United States of America. He has lost all trust from our city, he has lost all trust, to me, nationwide,” said Will Calloway, a community organizer who was instrumental in the release of the police footage of McDonald’s murder.
“It disappoints me, it saddens me in my heart that the Democratic Party is even entertaining something like this. I don’t want to politicize this, but it’s definitely important for us to educate ourselves ― that just because you represent a certain political party don’t mean you have our best interests at heart.”
Chima “Naira” Ikoro, an activist with Blck Rising, said that Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department “threw a rug over [McDonald’s] blood and walked over it.” While major political players are trying to move on from the ex-mayor’s misdeeds, the victim’s loved ones will never forget his actions, Ikoro said.
“Year after year, Black and brown underprivileged folks have to show y’all our scars to remind y’all what happened and to refresh everybody’s memories. … Forget if Rahm Emanuel is or isn’t qualified, when do we start asking ourselves if these politicians are deserving?” she said. “What has Rahm Emanuel done to deserve an appointment to get another seat of power?”
“Rahm Emanuel … is responsible for the largest school closing at one time in United States history. Does that not mean anything to y’all? … I am living in the aftermath of y’all’s negligence. There are students that got displaced that never went back to school because of that man. Mental health resources, life-saving help, got pulled from underneath us,” she continued.
“Y’all have a fetish for bathing in our sweat and tears. People who are fortunate enough to not be harmed by this cycle of corruption somehow think they have the right to grant a person like Rahm Emanuel a pardon for wrongdoing. Who gave y’all the right to forget?”