SOUTH LOOP — A smattering of protesters failed to derail Mayor Rahm Emanuel's breakfast celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Friday.
Although Emanuel repeated afterward, "This was not about me," but about celebrating King's legacy, he made pointed reference to the city's embattled Police Department, while others chided religious leaders who boycotted the annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast, held at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.
While a couple of dozen protesters shouted, "No guns!" and other chants outside, Emanuel was well-received by the packed-house crowd at the event. Citing King's work and legacy, Emanuel said, "He called us to confront the truth no matter how painful or ugly it is."
From there, Emanuel said the city must confront uneasy truths in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case and "root out the cancer of police abuse." He granted that young African-American men bore the brunt of the city's gun violence and called equal opportunity essential.
Emanuel called for the city to "restore trust" between police and communities, adding, "Where there is no trust there is no safety."
Emanuel said, "We will be a better city because we confronted the hard truths."
The Rev. Neichelle Guidry confronted those truths directly, reading a list of names killed by police, including McDonald, Rekia Boyd, Bettie Jones, Quintonio LeGrier and Cedrick Chatman. "We pray for no more names," she said. "Let justice roll, roll down like water."
Yet shortly after that a protester walked through the crowd chanting, "No justice, no peace," and "16 shots and a cover-up," before being ushered out by security.
Otherwise, no protests disrupted the breakfast, and there were no boos for anyone, although another protester outside the breakfast was also ushered out for chanting, "16 shots."
While reflecting on King, and the breakfast celebrating him founded by Mayor Harold Washington, former Ald. Dorothy Tillman said things were worse under Mayor Jane Byrne and Mayor Richard M. Daley. The Rev. Dr. B. Herbert Martin Sr. later scolded the religious leaders who boycotted the event.
"I cannot imagine what configuration of heaven leaves some of us outside," while others are praying inside, Martin said in accepting the city's Champion of Freedom Award from Emanuel.
He lauded King's "capacity to deal with both sides" of thorny issues, then compared the city today to the Chicago that burned on much of the West Side following King's assassination in 1968, with Mayor Richard J. Daley issuing a "shoot to kill" order for police.
Martin said King's legacy was to affirm "unity over divisiveness," and he scolded those who would "conjure up" a boycott of the breakfast, saying they "betray the sacrifices" of King and other civil-rights leaders.
"We live in times when people are long on criticism and short on sacrifices," said Pastor Al Toledo in the benediction.
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