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Sanders Thanks Rahm Emanuel for Not Endorsing Him, as Chicago Mayor Faces Increasing Calls to Resign

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Ahead of the Illinois Democratic primary on Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders took a moment to thank the mayor of the state’s largest city for not endorsing his presidential campaign. Sanders said he does not want Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s support, given the mayor’s role in closing public schools and firing teachers while maintaining cozy relations with Wall Street banks. Sanders stopped short of calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign but said he’s sympathetic to Chicago residents who are asking for the mayor to step down. He made the comments at Argo Community High School in Summit, Illinois, where he was introduced by Jesús “Chuy” García. Last year, García mounted a spirited but unsuccessful challenge against incumbent Emanuel. We speak with Jesús “Chuy” García, who is now a national surrogate for Sanders, and Veronica Morris-Moore, a youth organizer with the group Fearless Leading by the Youth. She helped organize the #ByeAnita campaign to oppose the re-election of Anita Alvarez, Cook County state’s attorney. Both Emanuel and Alvarez have faced calls to resign over an alleged cover-up of the police killing of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times. The city released video of the shooting following a judge’s order more than a year after it happened; Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder the same day.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Ahead of the Illinois Democratic primary on Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders took a moment to thank the mayor of the state’s largest city—for not endorsing his presidential campaign. Sanders said he does not want Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s support, given the mayor’s role in closing public schools and firing teachers while maintaining cozy relations with Wall Street. Sanders made the comments at Argo Community High School in Summit, Illinois, where he was introduced by Jesús “Chuy” García, who mounted a spirited but unsuccessful challenge against Emanuel last year.

JESÚS ”CHUY” GARCÍA: The next president of the United States of America for all the people, Senator Bernie Sanders!

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Secretary Clinton has received the endorsement of many senators and congressmen, and some of them are my friends and good people. But she has also received the strong endorsement of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Let me say—let me say—let me say, I want to thank Rahm Emanuel for not endorsing me. I don’t want his endorsement. I don’t want the endorsement of a mayor who is shutting down school after school and firing teachers.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, stopping short of calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign; however, Sanders said he’s sympathetic to Chicago residents who are asking for the mayor to step down—the mayor a key figure in national politics as a top aide to President Obama before he ran for mayor. He was a congressman before then.

Well, we’re staying in Chicago, where we’re joined by Jesús “Chuy” García. He’s a national campaign surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders, former Chicago mayoral candidate. García is also the Cook County commissioner.

And with us in Chicago is Veronica Morris-Moore, a youth organizer with the group Fearless Leading by the Youth. She is organizing the #ByeAnita campaign, campaigning against the re-election of Anita Alvarez, Cook County state’s attorney. And this very much has to do with, among others, the death of Laquan McDonald, which also relates to the current mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

Chuy García, it’s good to have you back on Democracy Now! Can you talk about why Rahm Emanuel is so significant in this Democratic presidential race right now?

JESÚS ”CHUY” GARCÍA: Well, obviously, Rahm Emanuel represents the 1 percent. He represents the powerful and the connections to Wall Street in Chicago, and someone whose agenda has put the city in a tremendous crisis as it relates to criminal justice, as it relates to the great disinvestment of Chicago neighborhoods while the city has built a very shiny downtown area of the city. Certainly the epitome of a 1 percent mayor, the mayor is quite unpopular in Chicago, has a very low approval rating at the present time. And many people feel that he acquired a second term in Chicago by covering up crises, by covering up scandals, and using the $30 million to get elected. There’s a lot of buyer’s remorse in Chicago. So, not a popular figure.

AMY GOODMAN: Veronica Morris-Moore, you also held a rally on Friday. This was not the anti-Trump rally. But how—explain how it fits into Chicago’s city politics, and now, because Illinois is one of the major primaries that are going to be held tomorrow, national politics.

VERONICA MORRIS-MOORE: Well, I think that it relates, and I think the point that we were making is that the politics in Chicago are reflective of the politics in America and the politics that have led to many black lives being murdered and nobody being held accountable for those lives in a lot of different cases. And so, the tie was that Anita Alvarez is already in office and practicing fascist politics, the same fascist politics and rhetoric that Donald Trump is spreading along his campaign trail, as he continues to ignite and add to this fire that is racial division and, ultimately, antiblackness in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what took place on Friday. You had the anti-Trump rally, and then you were closing down, a group of people, an intersection. Explain what you were calling for, your rally called long before you ever knew that Donald Trump was coming to town.

VERONICA MORRIS-MOORE: Yeah. So we’ve been organizing against Anita Alvarez for weeks. When we found out Trump was coming to town, we used it as a strategic opportunity to bring a large audience to see that it’s time for people like Anita Alvarez, for Rahm Emanuel, for folks who sit on City Council and watch videos and don’t hold people accountable publicly, but privately know what is happening systematically to black lives and not doing anything about it—it’s time for the people to stand up and say that these people are not allowed in our city, they are not allowed in our government, ultimately they shouldn’t be allowed in black lives, in any lives, for that matter.

AMY GOODMAN: Chuy García, explain how the death of Laquan McDonald, Laquan McDonald who was shot 16 times, the young 17-year-old African American, on October 20th, 2014, fits into the story of the Chicago mayor. When was the race that you ran against Rahm Emanuel? And at the time you were running, did you understand what had taken place with Laquan McDonald?

JESÚS ”CHUY” GARCÍA: The runoff election, the first that was had in the city of Chicago since we went to a nonpartisan system over 25 years ago, was held in April of 2015. The Laquan McDonald incident had taken place in November of that year [October 2014], shortly before I—right after I became a candidate for that office. The mayor and his advisers knew of the existence of the video. They quashed its release. They reached an early settlement, before a lawsuit was even filed by the family of Laquan McDonald.

As it turns out, the release of the video has just torn the lid off of the scandals and cover-ups in the criminal justice system having to do with the role of rogue police officers in Chicago pretty much doing what they want, disabling some of the devices in the police cars, the dash cam audio, so that you couldn’t tell what kind of dialogue was going on when incidents were occurring. And, of course, as we’ve—the world has come to know, the video is an execution that was caught on tape, that has really stirred the city and the country to reflect on what kinds of practices occur, especially as it relates to young African Americans and Latinos. The release of that video, which occurred this year—late last year, has really caused a crisis in Chicago, a crisis of confidence, where people have been demonstrating since the release of the video, calling for a set of reforms within the Chicago Police Department, within the bodies that are supposed to oversee misconduct and investigate allegations of misconduct. And all of that is now under review. You have investigations by the Justice Department, investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. So, Chicago has been in this crisis mode for the past several months. People are very angry. They’re demanding a change. Part of that call for change involves the State’s Attorney’s Office.

The Sanders campaign arrives in Chicago and in Illinois, and there’s a convergence of a whole bunch of events and developments that I think are causing people to say this is why we need some systemic change in this country. And the Bernie Sanders campaign happens to offer a different vision of what’s wrong with America, economically, in terms of the criminal justice system, so that within a week’s time—the campaign found itself almost 40 points behind Hillary Clinton, per one Chicago Tribune poll just a little bit over a week ago, and today we’re in a virtual dead heat, because people understand that we need some very important changes to occur, and the Sanders message is resonating with people across Chicagoland.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s also forced Hillary Clinton to distance herself a little from Rahm Emanuel. Usually politicians like to have the local mayor supporting them, but because of everything that’s happened, especially in the Laquan McDonald case—again, Rahm Emanuel was the chief of staff of President Obama. But, Veronica Morris-Moore, on the issue of Anita Alvarez, how does that state’s attorney—how—can you talk about what role she played in this case?

VERONICA MORRIS-MOORE: I think Anita Alvarez played the most important role in this place. If not for Anita Alvarez’s power and position, there would have essentially been no way for Laquan McDonald’s murderer to not be charged over 400 days after killing Laquan. Anita Alvarez is ultimately the person who is responsible for prosecuting people like Jason Van Dyke, like George Hernandez, like Dante Servin. And the list goes on and on of officers who have gotten away with murder because of Anita Alvarez. And this is something that has existed in Chicago for long term, all the way to the state’s attorney that covered up the murder of Fred Hampton. So, as a young black organizer, I understand there is a need for a change, but I also understand that there is a need for an entire new structure, in which the way politics and people engage in the society, and especially the way back lives are valued.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez being challenged by former Assistant State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, an excerpt of a recent debate moderated by Phil Ponce of Chicago Tonight.

PHIL PONCE: Anita Alvarez, obviously the Laquan McDonald case has been a key point and a key issue in this campaign. You said, at the time that you—that you made the charge against—filed charges against Officer Van Dyke, that you had been waiting for the feds before charging him, and the feds still have not finished their investigation. Is it safe to say you would still be waiting right now if the police video had not been released?

ANITA ALVAREZ: No. When I started the investigation, I reached out to the FBI, and I reached out to the United States attorney, and we met in December of 2014 and agreed to do a joint investigation. And I stand by that decision, because doing it with the FBI and the United States attorney really brought some great resources.

PHIL PONCE: Kim Foxx, do you believe that she would still be sitting on this case had that video not been ordered released?

KIM FOXX: Certainly what she said at the time was that she was waiting on the feds to finish their investigation. And to be clear, only the Cook County state’s attorney could have brought murder charges. What she said at the time where she announced the charges was that she had been waiting; she knew for weeks that she was going to charge Officer Van Dyke, but she held off on those charges because she was waiting for the feds to finish their investigation, which was completely unrelated to the murder charges. … And it was only because that video was going to be released. So the interest of the public safety had nothing to do with why that video was released. It was the public was going to see what Anita Alvarez knew, was that this young man was struck down in cold blood.

AMY GOODMAN: Kim Foxx and Anita Alvarez. Again, Veronica, the charges against the police officer were brought the day that the video was released. The video of the killing, the police dash cam, was only released because a judge demanded it be released. Is that correct, Veronica?

VERONICA MORRIS-MOORE: I’m sorry, could you repeat the question, please?

AMY GOODMAN: The day that the police officer was charged was the day that the video was released, and that was a court-ordered release of the police dash cam video that showed that all that was being said about Laquan McDonald wasn’t true—he was walking away from the police when he was shot.

VERONICA MORRIS-MOORE: Yeah. So the—what we found out in the 24-hour news cycle that came after this video was released, that not only did Anita Alvarez know about what happened, she knew that the police accounts were a lie. She knew the evidence was tampered with, tampered with like this was an utter and complete cover-up, and that’s very clear-cut by all of the things that has transpired since that video has been released.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank Veronica Morris-Moore for joining us. Fearless Leading by the Youth is the name of her organization. And Chuy García, former Chicago mayoral candidate, joining us from Chicago.

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