Public opinion seems to be turning against prosecutors in Illinois and Ohio who refused to crack down on police misconduct.
According to news reports, Cook County, Illinois, prosecutor Anita Alvarez and Cuyahoga County, Ohio prosecutor Tim McGinty both lost Democratic primaries Tuesday. Alvarez lost to Kim Foxx, a former assistant state’s attorney, and McGinty lost to challenger Michael O’Malley, a former Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor.
Alvarez has been lambasted for her refusal to prosecute Chicago police officers and for her role in the coverup of the shooting of Laquan McDonald. McGinty has been criticized for his failure to indict any of the Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was killed in a park, after he was brandishing a toy gun. According to The Atlanta Blackstar, video showed a police cruiser arriving on the scene and shooting Rice dead within seconds. He was never given an opportunity to drop the weapon.
Alvarez was defeated by Foxx, who grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing projects. She was also once homeless before going to college and law school. Foxx focused her campaign on promising to change the direction of the police department.
“You’re not going to be able to actively combat violence and the problems that have neighborhoods under siege if you are not doing it in partnership with the neighborhoods,” said Foxx according to Mother Jones. “You need the public as much as you need the police. It’s the public who we need to testify in court.”
Foxx has also promised to appoint a special prosecutor to look into police shootings.
According to Raw Story, Foxx’s campaign relied heavily on the efforts of grassroots activists and social media. Activists started a #ByeAnita hashtag encouraging voters to support Foxx and remove Alvarez, who was seen as a protector of abusive police officers. She waited 13 months to indict Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was captured on video shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times. Alvarez also failed to file charges against Chicago police officers who have fatally shot 68 people in seven years, according to Raw Story.
Mother Jones reported that Tanya Watkins, of the People’s Lobby, said the group made 200,000 phone calls and door-knocks to Chicago area voters. Breanna Champion, who works with Black Youth Project 100, a group affiliated with Black Lives Matter, said activists contacted 2,500 voters urging them to vote for Foxx.
Champion said Foxx’s victory showed Black Lives Matters was becoming a political force to reckon with.
“It shows that when young black people are actually engaged around issues that we care about…[we are] highly effective,” she said in a Mother Jones article.
According to Cleveland Scene, O’Malley only entered the primary in mid-December. He said he was running to restore integrity to the criminal justice system.
“I truly believe that over the last three or four weeks people started hearing the message that my campaign team was putting forth, and it was that this county needs to rebuild confidence in the criminal justice system and they need an individual who is willing to work to do that,” said O’Malley.