"It is our responsibility to challenge institutions of power, including our own university"
Editor’s Note: the following is an open letter written by an informal coalition of UCLA students, student groups, and non-UC-affiliated organizations in response to the decision by UCLA College to host Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a keynote speaker for its Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership series on February 12, 2018. The original letter can be found at this link.
We, the undersigned student and community organizations, are writing to express our deep disappointment with UCLA Administration’s decision to bring Rahm Emanuel to campus.
As part of its Luskin Lecture for Thought series, the UCLA College of Letters and Science will host Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on February 12th, 2018. The event will highlight Emanuel’s tenure as mayor and touts how he has made Chicago “a great place to live, work, and play”. This erases how destructive Emanuel’s policies have been to Black and Brown residents of Chicago. As future and current policy-makers, planners, organizers, and educators, we cannot disregard the people who are in danger because of Rahm Emanuel’s administration.
Although the City of Chicago already invests $1.5 billion on police every year, Rahm Emanuel plans to spend $95 million of taxpayer money to construct a Police Academy in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, a neighborhood that is 95% Black. This egregious use of public funds will expand a police department that is notorious for its systematic brutality against Black residents of Chicago. Out of 400 police shootings being investigated in Chicago since 2007, only one has been found to be unjustified. This is the same police department that murdered LaQuan McDonald with sixteen bullets and continues to inflict violence on Black and Brown communities in Chicago every single day. We will not forget Rahm Emanuel and his administration’s role in covering up the case of LaQuan McDonald to secure his own reelection.The Police Academy is being built under the guise of training police officers to be more competent, but we recognize this rhetoric as a strategy to funnel more money into an institution that will continue to terrorize Chicago’s most marginalized communities. Many groups in Chicago vehemently oppose the Police Academy proposal. The #NoCopAcademy Campaign is a grassroots coalition that is calling for this project to be stopped and for $95 million to be invested in public services. #NoCopAcademy is made up of 54 organizations including Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, the Arab American Action Network, the Latino Union, National Lawyers Guild of Chicago, and many more. We wholeheartedly stand with #NoCopAcademy and the organizers in Chicago that are fighting to protect their communities from Rahm Emanuel’s violent policies.
We would be remiss if we failed to recognize that more policing comes at the expense of public education and other vital public services. These services are seeing their funding dry up under Rahm Emanuel’s Administration. In 2013, Rahm Emanuel closed 50 public schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods in Chicago, forcing 11,000 students to change schools. These buildings remain vacant and thousands of already vulnerable students now have even less of a chance of receiving a quality education that will them afford them the opportunities Emanuel claims to be creating. Additionally, Emanuel is proposing to close all four public high schools in Englewood, a predominantly Black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Instead of funding these schools and providing them with the resources they need, the Mayor’s Administration is disrupting the education of Black students in Chicago. This is how the school to prison pipeline operates. Students are resisting these policies and demanding their schools remain open and accessible, and we support them in their fight to keep their schools open.
It is our responsibility to challenge institutions of power, including our own university, and hold elected officials accountable for their racist, violent policies. Rahm Emanuel claims that his administration made Chicago a great place to live. We ask, for who?
We encourage the UCLA campus community and those attending this event to look into #NoCopAcademy and support efforts to end violent policing and invest in the people of Chicago.
Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity- UCLA Luskin, Black Lives Matter LA, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Young Democratic Socialists UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, Critical Resistance Los Angeles, United States Palestinian Community Network, Los Angeles, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, People’s Response Team, UC Student Workers Union — UCLA, Planners of Color for Social Equity- UCLA Luskin, Urban Planning Womxn of Color Collective- UCLA Luskin, Master of Social Work Student Alliance — UCLA Luskin, Asian Pacific Islander Caucus- UCLA, UCLA School of Law Womyn of Color Collective, Asian American Studies Graduate Student Association- UCLA, Students of Color for Public Health — UCLA Fielding, Young Progressives Demanding Action at UCLA, Transgender UCLA Pride — UCLA