During a speech on campus this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined his vision for urban renewal and argued that Chicago ought to serve as a model for the rest of the nation, continuing to speak despite repeated and loud protests from activists in the audience. Addressing UCLA students, faculty and members of the public in Royce Hall on Monday, Feb.12, Emanuel touched on issues including educational reform, immigration policy and crime prevention.
The event was the fourth in a series of annual Luskin Lectures for Thought Leadership originally founded by alumnus donor Meyer Luskin and hosted by the College of Letters and Sciences. Mayor Emanuel was the keynote speaker at the lecture, which was moderated by Social Sciences Dean and professor Darnell Hunt. Mayor Emanuel argued that his investments in public education, transportation and proactive policing have improved Chicago’s notorious public schools and violent crime rate.
Explaining his vision for the future of America, Emanuel drew on his family’s immigrant experience — his grandfather was an Israeli-Jewish migrant who, fleeing a Romanian pogrom, came to America with no English language skills yet managed to make a living for himself in the city his grandson would one day govern.
Emanuel’s father was a member of the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary organization that fought for the establishment of a Jewish state and is well known for committing acts of violence against British officials during the colonial administration of the Mandate of Palestine. Emanuel argued that the opportunities afforded to his Jewish immigrant forebears were proof of the American Dream and the possibility for generational social mobility.
Mayor Emanuel’s initial remarks and the following Q&A with Dr. Hunt were repeatedly interrupted by loud, disruptive protests associated with #nocopacademy and #shutdownRahm. These movements are opposed to the mayor’s plans to build a $95 million police and fire academy in Chicago’s West Side and accuse the mayor of closing public schools and mental health facilities in minority neighborhoods as well as covering up the 2014 police shooting of 17 year-old Laquan McDonald.
Protesters handed out flyers to attendees waiting in line before the event and loudly interrupted Mayor Emanuel nine times, at times chanting “16 shots and a cover-up!” and “No cop academy!” Although most were peacefully escorted out of Royce Hall by police officers, two were placed in handcuffs and removed forcefully while they loudly complained.
These protests echoed the January 19th #nocopacademy disruptions during the mayor’s previous speech at the University of Michigan.