Many of the highest-ranking elected officials in Illinois joined together to publicly lament the lack of criminal charges against the Louisville police officers responsible for the killing of Breonna Taylor, while calling for any protests that occur in the coming days to be peaceful.
“This is, to put it simply, a gross miscarriage of justice,” Gov. JB Pritzker said.
Joining Pritzker at the somber and rare gathering of Democratic public officials were former political opponents Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and Jahmal Cole, from My Block, My Hood, My City.
They held an impromptu news conference together mere hours after a Kentucky grand jury indicted a single police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments. The Kentucky attorney general did not announce charges against any of the officers for their role in Breonna Taylor’s death.
A grand jury announced that former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection with the police raid on the night of March 13.
“The decision to only charge one officer with wanton endangerment is unacceptable,” Stratton said. “It is hurtful, it is confusing and it further illustrates how Black people are often dehumanized and disenfranchised by the criminal justice system. Today’s decision is yet one more example of why Black women often don’t feel protected.”
The news comes after a summer of numerous peaceful demonstrations in Chicago against police brutality. After some of those demonstrations, looters hit shops downtown and in the neighborhoods.
Pritzker said he’s asked the Illinois National Guard and state police to be prepared to be deployed if they’re needed, though no city in the state has requested their assistance.
Lightfoot, who called the grand jury’s decision “heartbreaking,” asked Chicagoans to join her in a moment of silence for Taylor at 7 p.m. She said the city is taking precautions and called for protests to remain peaceful.
“We are prepared for every eventuality but our hope, our prayer and what we urge is for peace,” Lightfoot said.
In previous instances, the mayor has been criticized for raising bridges, enacting a curfew and blocking routes to the city’s highways on short notice, leaving workers downtown with few options for getting around in the midst of demonstrations and looting.
Lightfoot said the city would try to give as much notice as possible if any similar measures are taken again.
“We don’t need to be a commercial for people who want to mischaracterize who we are as a city and as a people,” Lightfoot said, in a clear reference to President Donald Trump, who frequently harangues Chicago about its gun violence in speeches and social media posts.
“Some people are gonna use this event as an excuse to go looting,” Cole said. “Some people are gonna use this major event as an opportunity to bring people together and to protest peacefully, right? And to register people to vote and to change the system from within.”
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.