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Back-to-School News

All the news you missed this summer.

By Featured, News

Illustration by Catherine Cao.

I know what Chicago did this summer.

Man harasses woman for wearing a Puerto Rico shirt, nearby officer does not intervene

A Chicagoland Forest Ranger did not respond to the multiple calls for assistance from a woman being berated for her choice of attire, though he was only yards away. The woman, Mia Irizarry, had rented the Caldwell Woods pavilion where the altercation took place for her 24th birthday.

“I knew at that moment that I was really being treated like a minority in that situation … And if I had acted out in an aggressive way, in a defensive way just to protect myself from being put in harm’s way, I probably would’ve been criminalized by the officer,” Irizarry said in a live-streamed Facebook conversation.

The event went unnoticed for a period, until the video of it went viral. The man in the video, Timothy Trybus, was later charged with assault and disorderly conduct. He is now  facing two felony counts of hate crime. The Cook County Forest Preserves police officer involved, Patrick Connor, resigned about a month and a half after the incident.

Petition to install blue lights in train stations hopes to decrease suicides

As of August 5, 20,924 people have signed an online Care2 petition to install “calming” blue lights in Metra and CTA train stations. The petition cites a study that claims the implementation of blue LED lamps at a Japanese railroad company’s train stations decreased suicide rates at those locations by 84%. However, the study itself acknowledges it cannot definitively confirm the effectiveness of blue lights. 28 suicides occurred on Illinois railroads in 2017.

Metra confirmed its plans to place suicide prevention signage on the platforms of all of its 242 stations in July, and similar signs are installed in many CTA stations. Metra has also given more than 350 members of its staff special training in how to identify passengers who may be suicidal and bring them to safety. Its staff members intervened in 51 suspected suicide attempts and had 13 confirmed suicides in 2017. Five suicides on average occur per year on CTA tracks, according to a CTA spokesperson. Neither company intends to install blue lights at this time.

Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in Illinois in 2017, and the third leading cause of death for those aged 15–34. Despite Chicago’s reputation, the number of suicides in 2017 was nearly double the number of homicides.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). If you would like to schedule an appointment with SAIC’s Counselling Services, call 312–499–4271, or visit them at the Lakeview building (116 South Michigan Avenue), on the 13th floor.

Elections are coming up, vote for anybody (except the Nazi)

Senator Ted Cruz called for Illinois residents to vote for a Democrat or write in a candidate rather than vote for Holocaust denier and Nazi Arthur Jones, who is the Republican candidate seeking election to the US house of representatives for Chicago’s 3rd Congressional District.

“This is horrific. An avowed Nazi running for Congress. To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat. This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes,” Cruz said on Twitter.

Responding to Cruz’s statement but unwilling to instruct voters to choose a Democrat, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner told voters to write in a candidate, and also suggested that Jones should drop out of the race. The Illinois GOP failed four times to keep Jones off the ballot and he ran uncontested in the primaries earlier this year.

“To the voters of the 3rd Congressional District: vote for anybody but Arthur Jones. Nazis have no place in our country and no one should vote for him,” Rauner’s Twitter announced.  

When asked if he would endorse the Democrat incumbent Dan Lipinski, Rauner said no. “The one thing I will say is the person, that guy, Johnson or whatever his name is, should not be on the ballot,” he said.

Online voter registration for Illinois is available here. Find your polling place with this handy online tool, or this one.

Footage of a police shooting this summer released quickly but not in full

The fatal police shooting of Harith Augustus in July was followed by violent clashes the same night between police and protesters. Police body camera footage of the event was released by Superintendent Eddie Johnson the following morning, less than 24 hours after the shooting occurred.

The Emanuel administration has been praised for releasing the footage so promptly. By comparison, the footage of the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald was released more than a year after it happened. However, the audio footage and video footage from the other officers at the scene have yet to appear.  

“Today, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability is conducting a full and thorough investigation — one that will answer the questions that still remain. While their investigation takes place, and long after it is complete, we will continue our ongoing work to strengthen relationships, create common understanding and build trust between police and the people they serve,” Emanuel said.

Yet another in a long line of fatal police shootings in Chicago, Chicago Principals Association President Troy LaRaviere posted to Facebook soon after the event: “Mr. Augustus’ life as a father, his 9-to-5 job as a barber, and decade-long clean police record paint a picture of a man who likely carried a weapon for the reason most Americans carry weapons: to protect himself. Our system of policing has been found to unjustly target African American communities for everything from issuing parking tickets, to setting up DUI checkpoints, to the unconstitutional use of force.”

Without audio, the footage does not provide conclusive context to the shooting.

“That audio will enable us to determine if he reached for his gun before or after the first shot from the officers. It will also tell us what the police said to Mr. Augustus that may or may not have led to his fight-or-flight reaction to being stopped and surrounded by police officers,” LaRaviere wrote.  

Rauner reports a profit from ICE-related group

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner reported a profit this year from a private equity fund connected to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers. The fund owns a health care group that services these centers, including facilities involved in the holding of immigrant families and children.

The group, Correct Care Solutions, holds large government contracts across the country totaling millions of dollars to service jails and prisons as well as the ICE detention centers. Rauner claims his investment decisions are handled by a third party and he has no direct ties with the group. However, the third-party management of these decisions is within a power-of-attorney arrangement, not a true blind trust.

ICE contractors across the country make billions assisting in the agency’s goal to “remove all removable aliens.” Illinois is home to more than 20 businesses with ongoing contracts for ICE. Chicago businesses make up five of the 20 (Xerox Corporation, Eco Clean Maintenance Incorporated, Continental Transportation Solutions Inc., CDW Corporation, and Benefit Planning Inc.).

As calls to abolish ICE grow louder, some are questioning if such a move successfully addresses the fundamental issues of the system.

“Abolishing ICE will not stop immigration enforcement. Ending the brutal policies we are witnessing today requires a much more profound rethinking of how we have managed and criminalized immigration for more than a century,” Elliott Young wrote for History News Network in July.

Chance the Rapper does his own news shorts: criticizes local officials and media, and announces newspaper purchase in new song

In a new song called “I Might Need Security”, Chance the Rapper states “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches out of business.” Soon after, WNYC confirmed that Chance has indeed purchased local news site Chicagoist.

“I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment. … I look forward to re-launching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content,” Chance later said in an official statement.

Chance came under criticism in 2016 when he threatened to no longer work with MTV News if they didn’t remove an unfavourable review of his album, causing some concern over his ability to remain neutral as the owner of a newspaper.

The song was released a week after Officer Robert Rialmo was acquitted in the shooting of Quintonio LeGrier. “And Rahm, you done, I’m expectin’ resignation / An open investigation on all of these paid vacations for murderers,” Chance raps.

Chance is open about his negative opinion of Mayor Emanuel. In 2016, he agreed with the suggestion that Barack Obama replace Emanuel as Mayor of Chicago, stating “We need a new mayor, for sure.” Chance also spoke out against Rahm’s plans to spend $95 million on a new police training academy at a 2017 City Council meeting. During his 2017 Lollapalooza performance, Chance told the crowd to “Put pressure on politicians to put you first,” then said “come at me, Rahm.”

During the four-minute song, Chance also claims Crain’s Chicago Business leaked the address of his condo in Streeterville, and accuses the Sun-Times – in whose pages he was criticized over a child support dispute without any mention of the millions he has contributed to the Chicago Public School system – of being in Rauner’s pocket.

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