On Tuesday, prosecutors Anita Alvarez and Tim McGinty, who worked the cases of Laquan McDonald and Tamir Rice in Chicago and Cleveland, respectively, were voted out in their primaries. Their losses are a victory for Black Lives Matter, a movement whose cultural reach will continue to be tested—and hopefully proven—at the polls.
In Chicago, Cook County State’s prosecutor Alvarez has been under fire by protestors for nearly a year. She refused to bring charges against McDonald’s shooter Officer Jason Van Dyke for over a year; her long-delayed action coincided with the release of dash cam footage of the 17-year-old’s death by a judge’s order. Black Lives Matter’s Chicago chapter, headed by Aislinn Pulley, led many demonstrations demanding police accountability, the removal of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the ousting of Alvarez.
On election day, BLM hung 16 signs around the city, according to Buzzfeed, which read “Blood on the ballot” and “Adios Anita 16 shots and a cover up,” along with the Twitter hashtag #ByeAnita. Another activist outfit called Assata’s Daughters organized against Alvarez, tweeting, after her loss, “Chicago Black youth kicked Anita Alvarez out of office” and we “won’t stop until we’re free and Kim Foxx should know that as well.”
Kim Foxx, a black woman, is the new Democratic nominee for Cook County State’s Attorney. Hailing from Chicago’s now-torn down housing project Cabrini Green, Foxx worked her way up the political chain under Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. She faces Republican Christopher Pfannkuche in the fall.
In Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor McGinty lost to fellow Democrat Michael O’Malley. McGinty was the prosecutor who advised a grand jury against indicting police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback who gunned down 12-year-old Rice in 2014.
McGinty made this call despite video depicting one of the cops running from their car and killing the boy before properly assessing the situation while the other detained Rice’s sister as he lay dying. There was also confusion around whether the grand jury ever formally decided not to indict the officers: reporters for The Cleveland Scene weren’t able to find record of a “no-bill,” which juries submit when they vote against bringing charges against a defendant. The document is usually kept in a file at the local courthouse, but no one in Cuyahoga County seemed to be able to find it.
The Cleveland Scene’s Vince Grzegorek also writes that O’Malley was not an incredibly popular candidate. He just seemed to be at the right place at the right time, when McGinty’s constituents were tired of his reluctance toward holding police accountable. At the same time, it’s likely that voters were swayed by national protests against police violence and the non-indictments in Cleveland, Chicago and most recently, San Francisco.
Like Foxx, O’Malley promises to rebuild relationships with the community he serves and bring justice.
“... this county needs to rebuild confidence in the criminal justice system and they need an individual who is willing to work to do that,” O’Malley said. “I will be meeting with people I will be talking with people on the streets. It’s going to take a large effort to bring this system back, but I am willing to work with the common pleas judges, the public defenders, all the people who thought they were perhaps bullied in the past will have a partner, and that partner will be me and my team.”
Good luck to Foxx and O’Malley.