Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is leading a “strategic gentrification plan” aimed at forcing Blacks and other racial minorities out of Chicago in an effort to make the city wealthier — and whiter, according to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy.
Kennedy’s accusations against the mayor came during a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 3, where the would-be governor discussed the issue of gun violence in the North Lawndale community, the Chicago Tribune reported. He charged that Emanuel and city administration officials were responsible for purposefully divesting in African-American communities, thus forcing Black residents to seek homes elsewhere.
“This is involuntary,” Kennedy told reporters. “That we’re cutting off funding for schools, cutting off funding for police, allowing people to be forced to live in food deserts, closing hospitals, closing access to mental health facilities … What choice do people have but to move, to leave?”
“I think that it’s part of a strategic gentrification plan being implemented by the city of Chicago to push people of color out of the city,” he added. “The city is becoming smaller, and as it becomes smaller, it becomes whiter.”
The mayor’s office has pushed back against Kennedy’s claims, likening his allegations to the “divisive” rhetoric oft spewed by President Donald Trump and current Illinois governor Bruce Rauner. Kennedy is hoping to take Rauner’s spot but must first snag a victory in the upcoming Democratic primary for governor this March, according to the newspaper.
“It is sad to see Chris Kennedy joining President Trump and Gov. Rauner in using cynical, politically motivated attacks about Chicago’s communities for his own personal gain,” said Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath in a statement. “… His divisive comments today are a direct assault on one of this city’s greatest strengths — our diversity.”
Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy and nephew of late President John F. Kennedy, has made it his priority to appeal to the city’s Black community, aiming his efforts at addressing gun violence, property taxation in African–American neighborhoods, and the fairness of education opportunities in the city, the Chicago Tribune reported. As an example of the city’s “strategic gentrification plan,” Kennedy cited a move by Chicago Public Schools to close four South Side high schools for one year before another one opens up in 2019.
Census data has seemingly bolstered the gubernatorial candidate’s claims, showing that in 2010, the year before Emanuel was first elected mayor, Chicago’s Black population totaled 33.2 percent. The latest Census stats released last year showed that percentage has since fallen to about 29.3. The city’s sharp decline in African-American locals has been described as a sort of mass exodus from Chicago in recent years.
At the news conference, Kennedy also blasted Emanuel for taking credit for the decrease in crime last year and alleged that the city is “using a strategy of selective containment where we are allowing violence to continue as long as it only continues in certain neighborhoods.” That allegation prompted a sharply worded response from city Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who took issue with the candidate’s claims.
“I have never heard from Chris Kennedy. I have never even met him,” Johnson said in a statement. “He has never visited a police station or asked me or my team for any kind of briefing on what we’re doing in Chicago to address the gang violence and ongoing infusion of illegal guns on to our streets.”
“As far as I can tell he hasn’t spoken to one officer or any of CPD leadership,” he added. “I am not a politician, but I do take issue when the hard work our men and women are doing to beat back this violence is used to score political points.”
As for Kennedy and Emanuel, there isn’t much political history between the two, according to the newspaper. Kennedy did donate $5,000 to the mayor’s campaign in 2014, however.