Politics

Dueling Protests Over Jussie Smollett Case Rock Chicago

Michael Volpe Contributor

Simmering racial and political tensions with local and national implications bubbled to the surface Monday, during two competing protests in Chicago.

Prompted by prosecutors’ handling of actor Jussie Smollett’s alleged crimes, The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Chicago Lodge Seven sponsored a protest of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. That protest was held in front of the Cook County Administration Building on 69 West Washington, where the CCSA has offices.

The FOP is Chicago police’s union.

Meanwhile, counter-protesters gathered to protest the police. (RELATED: Owens: Jussie Smollett Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize)

The crowd of several hundred people was split fairly evenly.

CPD Protests Foxx

Photo by Michael Volpe

The police were protesting Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case, where she made a dubious deal and then made contradictory statements about it.

“Kim Foxx must go,” the crowd favoring the police chanted repeatedly.

Their supporters wore hats and pins that read, “Back the Blue.”

Photo by Michael Volpe

Foxx recently even admitted that while she claimed for weeks to have recused herself, she did not actually do so.

“The State’s Attorney did not formally recuse herself or the Office based on any actual conflict of interest,” a spokesperson told Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass for a March 28 column.

“Although we use the term ‘recuse’ as it relates to State’s Attorney Foxx’s involvement in the matter, it was a colloquial use of the term rather in its legal sense,” the spokesperson said later in Kass’ column. (RELATED: Jesse Jackson: ‘Outrage’ Over Jussie Smollett Case Is ‘Fake News’)

Kass was at the rally; The Daily Caller caught him quickly interviewing Jesse Jackson, who was whisked off by an entourage before the Caller could also interview Jackson.

John Kass and Jesse Jackson, photo by Michael Volpe

Police and their supporters who spoke with the Caller said the reaction to the Smollett case was the result of pent-up frustration over numerous issues.

“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has been smoldering for a while, and this is the case that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Enough’s enough,” said Tony, a CPD officer.

Photo by Michael Volpe

SJW’s Protest the Police

Meanwhile, social justice groups led by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) had a counter demonstration, arguing that police have blown this situation out of proportion in order to minimize that department’s own racism, corruption and incompetence.

“Sixteen shots and a cover-up,” this side chanted repeatedly, referring to LaQuan McDonald being shot by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke sixteen times.

That video was withheld for over a year, from Oct. 20, 2014, the date of the incident, to its release on Nov. 26, 2015, two days after Van Dyke was charged. (RELATED: Chris Rock Rejects ‘No Jussie Jokes’ At NAACP Awards Show, Says Actor Will Get ‘No Respect From Me’)

Frank Chapman, the co-chairperson of CAARPR, said, “Here we have the Fraternal Order of Police, the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department Eddie Johnson, the Mayor—the same mayor who sat on the video tape of LaQuan MacDonald being murdered for 40 days—we have him, and then we have Donald Trump. So, now, that is the most racist alliance I have ever seen.” He added, “These people are getting together to beat up our movement by using the Jussie Smollett case. We’re not going have it; we’re not going to have it. We’re not going to stand for it.”

“What is the FOP talking about? Have they come out against police torture? Did they ever come out against John Burge, who not only tortured people, but lied about it?” Chapman told a reporter.

Photo by Michael Volpe

John Burge is a former Chicago police commander who was the head of a torture ring from 1972-1991, which extracted false confessions from African-American suspects in hundreds of cases using torture.

While never convicted for the torture himself, he was convicted for lying about it in a civil case and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in a federal prison.

Chapman, speaking with the Caller, said that more than 100 cases currently being reviewed by the Torture Inquiry Relief Commission (TIRC), involve people still in jail as a result of Burge. The TIRC was created in 2011 by the Illinois legislature to review cases where convictions might have occurred because of police torture.

He said he believed the total number may be as high as 500.

Superintendent Johnson and the Code of Silence

Meanwhile, CPD Superintendent Johnson may have said something more significant to Fran Spielman, in an interview for the Chicago Sun-Times released on March 29, 2019.

When asked about a code of silence in CPD, he made this noteworthy admission.

“Do I think there might be officers that look the other way? Yeah, I do. … There are a lot of reasons why cops might not report misconduct. If they see their partner engage in misconduct, they may look the other way,” he said.

Kevin Graham is president of the Chicago FOP Lodge Seven. He held a press conference and when asked by the Caller about Johnson’s admission, he defended his members.

“He’s the superintendent. If he knows something, he can take action. I’m not aware of that, so I can’t comment on it,” Graham responded.

When pressed, he stated, “I can’t tell you what 18,000 of my members are doing every day. I can tell you that I don’t know of any kind of a cover-up or any kind of code of silence.”

The Smollett Case and the Chicago Mayoral Race

Graham then took a shot Chicago mayoral candidate, Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor.

“Tell it to the federal prosecutor. Which is what I told Lori Lightfoot, she wrote it. I said if you do something, you should have done something about it,” Graham said.

Police corruption is usually investigated and prosecuted federally.

The Smollett case has cast a big shadow on the Chicago mayoral race, which has its runoff on April 2.

Toni Preckwinkle is the current Cook County Board President and she is up against Lightfoot, in the first match-up of two African-American females in Chicago history.

Preckwinkle has recently gotten hammered for her association with Foxx, who served as her chief of staff during Preckwinkle’s board presidency.

Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, said the public deserved more answers from Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office about its decision to drop all criminal charges against Smollett. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle offered no personal opinion about the latest development in a polarizing case that has drawn national attention and instead deferred to the prosecutor’s office for further explanation,” a recent Chicago Tribune story noted.

Kass was more colorful, noting in his column of Preckwinkle’s relationship with Foxx, “But I can imagine Toni Preckwinkle with a bemused smile on her face, saying, ‘I could have been mayor.’”

There were even a handful of people with red MAGA hats on. One woman said she did not fear wearing it in Chicago.

Woman in MAGA hat, photo by Michael Volpe

“I’m on the right side of history,” she proclaimed.