The 155th Juneteenth
Last week, the City Council passed a resolution to recognize the 19th of June as a day to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States, but it stopped short of declaring it a paid holiday like other cities have done. In February, North Side Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), with the support of forty other aldermen, introduced an ordinance that would make Juneteenth Day an official holiday. But in a gesture that people didn’t exactly expect from the first Black woman mayor, Lori Lightfoot said the city couldn’t afford to make Juneteenth a city holiday (the cost could be $100 million). In a turn of events, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he would work with the legislature to make Juneteeth a state holiday. The Black community held their own celebrations that included patronizing Black restaurants in recovery and a car caravan that took off in the West Side, made stops on the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Ave. and other historic locations, and ended at the Pullman Porter Museum in the South Side.
Community oversight of the police
Protesters outside City Hall were so loud that the mayor had to momentarily mute last week’s virtual City Council meeting. Activists have been demanding community control of the police through an elected body known as Chicago Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that would replace the mayor-appointed Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). Lightfoot has responded by forming a twenty-member task force, which includes community members, experts, and activists, to review CPD’s use of force. Critics say CPAC—unlike COPA or the task force—would actually have the power to determine the police budget and hire and fire the police chief. Working in tandem are activists who are demanding that Chicago Public Schools terminate their $33 million contract with CPD and remove officers from schools altogether, as well as student activists who partook in a nineteen-hour sit-in on June 13 to call for disbanding the University of Chicago’s campus police—the largest private police force in Chicago.
New funds for struggling tenants and business owners
Last week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a $900 million package of grants to help struggling businesses, renters, and homeowners. The plan includes $60 million to support Illinois businesses, which includes $20 million specifically earmarked for businesses that suffered damage due to looting in the aftermath of protests against the killing of George Floyd. The package also designated $300 million, to be disbursed in August, to help the estimated one in three Illinoisans struggling to pay rent or make mortgage payments. On Saturday, Mayor Lightfoot announced that the city’s $15 million “Together Now” fund has begun taking applications from small businesses that have suffered economic distress or property damage in recent months; the deadline to apply is Monday, June 29, and grants to 2,500 qualifying businesses will be awarded by lottery. See chicago.gov/togethernow or cct.org/togethernow.