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Chicago Ministers Boycott Mayor's King Day Breakfast


And this past month has not been a good one for Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel. A recent poll puts his approval rating at 18 percent, and there are widespread calls for his resignation, all largely because of his handling of the investigation into the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald Let's hear now from a prominent critic of the mayor. Pastor Corey Brooks at the New Beginnings Church of Chicago is one of many African-American clergy who boycotted the mayor's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast. Mr. Brooks, good morning.

COREY BROOKS: Good morning, thank you for having me on the show. I greatly appreciate it.

GREENE: Well, thanks for coming on. We appreciate your time. Tell me why you skipped the breakfast.

BROOKS: Well, we skipped the breakfast because we felt as if it was an injustice to be there, to - you know, in honor of Doctor Martin Luther King, we think that if we're going to eat breakfast with the mayor on Martin Luther King's birthday, it should be centered around justice. It should be centered around being equal for all people. And here in Chicago, that's just not the way that it is.

GREENE: You know, you were such a vocal supporter of Mayor Emanuel. You even backed his bid for reelection, and, I mean, those are incredibly harsh words to say he is not someone who supports justice in your city. What - at what moment did you realize that you could no longer support him?

BROOKS: Well, at the moment that that - it was - the video was released and then we got all the emails talking about the different meetings that he was having with his leadership and his cabinet and people around him that knew about the video but...

GREENE: This was the video, we should say, of Laquan McDonald...

BROOKS: The video of Laquan McDonald, and - but he still yet says that he did not see the video. Even though a lot of the people around him saw the video and reported to him, he still wants to make us believe that he did not hold that video back as - for political gain. And there's a lot of us who just don't believe that. We just don't buy that story.

GREENE: And tell me why that is such a huge, huge deal to you. Just articulate why him saying that he hasn't seen that video means so much to you.

BROOKS: Well, because it affects the outcome of the election. You know, if that video comes out at the time of the election, there is no Rahm Emanuel being mayor of Chicago, definitely. And we believe - a lot of us believe that that video was held back for political reasons. And if that is true, that's something that we cannot tolerate in a time like this. And, you know, people need to know we're not only just facing Laquan McDonald. There was a video that was released after the election of the young man who was Tasered some 18 times and drug like a doll out of a jail cell. And he was - he was killed. There was another video of a young man who ran from a car, and he was shot and killed. And that video was held. So it's more than just one incident.

GREENE: You know, I read a comment from one person protesting the police there in Chicago, and he suggested in a news story that it is not about who the mayor is. He said the police force, in his words, has been messed up before Emanuel's time; it will be messed up long after he's gone. And it makes me wonder. Do you worry that focusing on the mayor - I mean, is that the best way to bring the change you want in the city?

BROOKS: Well, the mayor has had enough time to change the culture of the police department. He brought in the superintendent, and their - recently, he fired the superintendent of police. So, you know, we believe the culture of the police department - it could have been changed. There are a lot of issues that need to be fixed, and there are a lot of things that have been done under his watch. And at the end of the day, he is the leader. And at the end of the day, he's responsible, not just for the good things that happen in the city of Chicago, but for the bad things as well.

GREENE: Just about 20 seconds left or so. I know, you know, Mayor Emanuel is a man with a long political career. He has apologized. He has acknowledged this happened on his watch - anything he can do to change your mind and make you support him again?

BROOKS: Well, you know, as pastors, we - at least I do, and I'm sure my comrades do as well. We believe in reconciliation. We believe in forgiveness. And we want all of that to take place, but we're not - we're not willing to have reconciliation without action. And until the mayor puts action behind his words and his tears, we're going to continue our stance and continue to do what we do and continue to ask him to step aside. And until then, we hope that things can be rectified.

GREENE: All right, pastor, thanks very much.

BROOKS: Thank You. I appreciate it.

GREENE: That's Corey Brooks from Chicago's New Beginnings Church. And we should say, Mayor Emanuel has been on our program before. We've reached out to his office to chat with him about all of this, and we are ready to welcome him again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.