Some of the nation’s most prominent civil rights leaders came out this weekend to support Jesus “Chuy” García for mayor of Chicago.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, and author and activist Cornel West joined hundreds of enthusiastic García supporters at a Saturday rally at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side.
Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis, who called on García to run after she became ill with cancer, also spoke. She slowly entered the church using a walker and sat down to speak with hundreds of supporters who gave her a standing ovation.
“I was ready to go and my body said no,” Lewis said of her decision not to run. So he reached out to "her friend" García.
She dismissed some of the polls that show Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel with a lead.
“They did not count our notion of what grass roots, participatory democracy looks like,” Lewis said.
The Rev. Jackson reminded people that Saturday was the 47th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Jackson recalled King’s dream of ending poverty.
“We have the power. This city is our city,” Jackson said.
Jackson also said we should not let talk of racial tension divide voters.
“If you build a wall between us, we can’t see each other,” he said.
Huerta, the most revered Latino civil rights leaders in the U.S., said that the nation is watching Chicago.
“We are on the eve of making history,” she said. “This is not just going to be about Chicago. This is going to be about the United States of America.”
West criticized Emanuel’s leadership.
“Brother Rahm is not a brother of integrity. He’s too mean and arrogant. He’s too condescending. He’s too paternalistic. That day is over. It’s a new day in Chicago,” he said.
He said this election is about pushing aside the neoliberal agenda of privatization and militarization.
The crowd was full of energy when García spoke at the pulpit.
"This past week, Rahm Emanuel made a comment to the effect that you can't protest a problem," Garcia said. "And it really flies in the face of everything that Dr. King stood for, and for the civil rights movement in this country, and the women's rights movement in this country, and the immigrant rights movement in this country, as well as the Fight For 15 movement in this country.
"It's time to fire Rahm Emanuel," Garcia added.
Posters popped up around the church with that message - Fire Rahm.
The rally drew a diverse group of people, African American, Latino and white, teachers, cab and bus drivers and lots of union members.
John Hall, 66, a Greyhound driver with Local 1700, lives in Auburn Gresham.
“This type of political fight only comes around once in a lifetime,” he said.
He said he supports García and thinks he will bring everybody together.
“He’s for the people. He’s down to earth. He’s old school and I like that because I’m old school,” Hall said.
Mark Meinster, 41, of Pilsen, supports García’s advocacy for worker’s rights.
“He supports workers and fighting for higher wages,” he said.
Vanessa Kotesky, 44 of Wicker Park, is a preschool teacher who said she was angry at Emanuel for the school closings and how he has treated teachers.
“He doesn’t represent us at all. He’s bold about his arrogance,” she said.
After the rally, Rev. Jackson marched with a group of voters to vote early on the West Side.
At the rally there was energy, excitement and unity, the kind that surrounded Harold Washington, elected in 1983.
Washington was this city’s first African American mayor. And García could become Chicago’s first Latino mayor.