Chicago Organizers Want Alvarez Out

Tuesday is another big day for the presidential election, with voters coming out for primaries in Illinois, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri, as well as for a Republican caucus in the Northern Mariana Islands. But that's not the only important election taking place on March 15. Chicago voters will have the chance to either reelect or replace Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office is the second-largest prosecutor's office in the country, and is responsible for handling police misconduct, but Alvarez — who took office in 2008 — has cleared at least 68 police-involved shootings over the last seven years.

Chicago activists have organized a series of #ByeAnita actions across the Chicago area calling for her resignation since a dashcam video of the Oct. 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released on Nov. 24, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with first-degree murder. Three witnesses who were present at the time of the shooting were threatened to align their testimonies with the officers', and once the McDonald family's lawyers obtained the footage, the city gave the family a $5 million settlement to keep the video confidential.

So where does Alvarez come in? The Chicago police department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration allegedly spent a year trying to cover up the shooting, and the State's Attorney's Office waited a year to press charges against Van Dyke.

Immediately following the release of the dashcam footage, organizers in the city took to the streets calling for the mayor's resignation, along with that of Alvarez and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who was fired by Emanuel soon after. Organizers associated with the Black Youth Project 100 (byp100), We Charge Genocide, Black Lives Matter Chicago, and Assata's Daughters have worked tirelessly for months on a series of #ByeAnita and #RahmResign actions. Some of the most recent #ByeAnita actions include the Chicago takeover of the Trump Rally last Friday, when thousands of activists associated with a number of different organizers showed up at the UIC pavilion, prompting a cancellation of the event. A press release stated, "We see a direct link between Trump’s overtly racist white nationalist campaign and Anita Alvarez’s record of filling jails and prisons with black bodies."

Other such actions took place as recently as Monday March 14, just a day before the primaries. Assata's Daughters put up 16 banners across the city to bring attention to the state's attorney election, and planned to have planes flying across the Chicago skyline with banners reading: "Chicago stands with Laquan, Hillary stands with Rahm #ByeAnita #ByeRahm."

Now, as Illinois' primaries come up on Tuesday, the city of Chicago has a chance to vote in a new state's attorney. Some are turning to Alvarez's opponent Kim Foxx, whose campaign has greatly focused on reforming the city's controversial criminal justice system and called for police accountability. Foxx just received John Legend's endorsement Sunday evening, after the singer engaged in a feud with the Trumps over the weekend, standing with Chicago protesters against the "racist" presidential candidate.

If you're registered in Cook County, make sure you cast your vote in this important election on Tuesday. Chicago has been at the center of a number of controversial policing scandals in this past year alone, from the Black Site at Homan Square to the death of McDonald. According to a report published by organizers with We Charge Genocide, police brutality reports in Chicago are 94 percent less likely to be sustained than in the rest of the nation. The state's attorney election is especially important for criminal justice reform and police accountability in Chicago.