The Team Behind #ByeAnita Tells Us Why They Don't Support Kim Foxx, Either
If you’ve scrolled past the #byeAnita hashtag on Twitter, seen the banner above flying through the sky, or noticed that Kim Foxx is Cook County's democratic nominee for State’s Attorney, then you’ve indirectly encountered Assata’s Daughters. The intergenerational collective of black women and girls was central to Anita Alvarez’s loss in Tuesday’s primary. Working with a coalition of black activists from Black Lives Matter, BYP100, and other organizations, they disrupted Alvarez’s fundraising events and posted anti-Alvarez banners throughout the city—16 of them, total, to evoke the 16 times Laquan McDonald was shot by a Chicago police officer almost two years ago. (A video of the fatal shooting released last fall fueled the effort to oust Alvarez, who was tasked with investigating and prosecuting the shooter.)
Tuesday night, the collective released two statements about their victory, and threw a party (with cake!) to honor Alvarez’s departure from city government. Today, Chicagoist spoke with Tess Raser, a 26-year-old teacher and organizer for Assata’s Daughters, about how this happened.
Why they focused on Anita Alvarez
Helping the city keep the video of McDonald’s death under wraps was just one of the counts against Alvarez, Raser said. “She made it so it’s nearly impossible to convict officers who kill predominantly black people. Like Rekia Boyd: her killer, Dante Servin, still is a police officer with CPD, and this year will mark the four-year anniversary of her death.”
Raser also said Alvarez gave harsh, maximum sentences to “black and brown children,” even though Raser argues that “no children should ever really be in prisons and jails. ... The Supreme Court has suggested that actually when we’re dealing with children and youth, we should consider other things instead of just [automatically] giving them prison and jail sentences.”
How they got her out of office
Quickly. Raser said Assata’s Daughters and their coalition didn’t really begin action against Anita until a month ago, when they noticed that Alvarez was leading in the polls despite a winter plagued by scandal. Since then, they not only hung 16 banners as far north as Rogers Park, and as far south as 79th Street—they also strove to educate voters on why Alvarez is “harmful to our community,” as Raser put it, in a variety of ways.
On Friday, they even managed to use the cancelled Donald Trump rally at UIC as an opportunity to campaign against Alvarez.They blocked the Racine & Van Buren intersection near UIC, Raser said, to “connect the similarities between [Alvarez] and Donald Trump, as both being anti-black, both being supporters of state violence against black and brown communities. We wanted to say that that was unacceptable.”
Our official statement on the States Attorney Race. #ByeAnitaPosted by Assata's Daughters on Tuesday, March 15, 2016
How they feel about Kim Foxx
Assata’s Daughters doesn’t endorse her, and never did. ‘We weren’t working with a political candidate,” Raser said. “Our goal was getting Anita Alvarez out of office.”
She continued, “We aren’t on team Kim. We’re on team ‘for our people.’ No prosecuting attorney is ever going to be that team.”
She hopes that this frame, of organizing against a candidate rather than for one, can be useful to organizers in other cities, helping them “engage with politicians who have a lot of power, in our eyes, but who aren’t really ever going to be revolutionary or radical for us in the ways that we need them to be.”
Still, she hopes that Foxx can provide “harm reduction,” offering police less impunity and administering less harsh sentences to people of color than Alvarez did. Not that Raser's hopes are high.“We’ll be holding her accountable in the same ways as Anita Alvarez. We’re not asleep now that we got Anita Alvarez out of office.”
What they want for Chicago
“We’re police and prison abolitionists, so we never are here to support the head prosecutor of the state, whose job, in my eyes, is to incarcerate black people.” Raser and Assata’s Daughters hope that one day, the massive amounts of money that fund local police and jails get invested in services for poor communities, especially poor black ones.
“Black communities in Chicago don’t have resources that people need to survive part of what imagining what a world without police and prison looks like is [imagining] a world where we have services like mental health care, where we have schools.”
As a teacher, Raser knows firsthand how valuable this could be. “A lot of my students last year, they were in classrooms with 43 other students . That’s the experience of a lot of black people in Chicago.”
Correction, March 17: This post previously said that Kim Foxx was Cook County's State's Attorney. She is the democratic nominee for Cook County's State's Attorney.