The Candidate Police Reform Activists Propelled To Victory In Chicago

Isaiah J. Poole

Cable news viewers on Sunday morning got an opportunity to meet for perhaps the first time the woman who was propelled by grassroots people power in line to become Chicago’s next state’s attorney.

She is Kim Foxx, and if she wins in the general election for Cook County, Ill., state’s attorney, that would mean an avowed progressive activist would be in place to do battle against a long history of police misconduct, exemplified by the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old black Chicagoan who was shot 16 times by police who then hid video evidence suggesting that the shooting was unjustified.

“I think the victory shows that the county consensus is that we needed to change,” said Foxx, who appeared Sunday on MSNBC’s Politics Nation with Al Sharpton. “We needed more transparency and accountability from prosecutors when we handle cases like this.”

The victory was also a triumph for National People’s Action Campaign affiliates The People’s Lobby and Reclaim Chicago, which organized for months to defeat the incumbent state’s attorney Anita Alvarez, who was first elected to the office in 2008.

“We contacted more than 260,000 voters across the city and the suburbs,” wrote Daniel Espinosa of the National People’s Action Campaign in an e-mail to supporters after the March 15 election. “Our on-the-ground organizing translated months of outrage and massive street demonstrations demanding justice for Laquan McDonald into a powerful referendum at the ballot box.”

In addition to direct canvassing of voters, the Chicago Tribune reported after the election that “Alvarez was forced to deal with groups of protesters who turned up at most of her public appearances in the final three months of the campaign to call for her resignation or defeat.” In the end, Foxx won with 58 percent of the vote.

Espinosa wrote that “Alvarez oversaw the expansion of the nation’s largest pretrial jail population, let bad cops walk free, and was instrumental in the cover-up of the Laquan McDonald murder.” Foxx, he went on to write, “has pledged to put a stop to mass incarceration and reform a broken criminal justice system. She’s pledged to hold corrupt police officers accountable.”

Foxx will be facing Republican challenger Christopher Pfannkuche, a retired Cook County prosecutor now in private practice, in the November general election. While the direct impact of this election will be limited to the Chicago area, it will hold nationwide lessons for how grassroots activists motivated by demands for criminal justice and police reform can put people into power committed to enacting those reforms.

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