[color-box color=white]Ouch, that hurts, doesn’t it? Paper Cuts are our short, erratic and slightly painful updates on current, local and national events. This time, we cover activists ousting Anita Alvarez and Poland’s dismantled democracy. [/color-box]
In the wake of “I have a great relationship with the blacks” Drumpf’s disconcertingly enormous Florida win — grabbing every county in the state except Miami-Dade — let’s focus, for a moment, on an election scenario significantly less dread-inducing. For the sake of our collective mental health. Please.
Over the course of her three terms in office, Anita Alvarez, State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, has cleared Chicago cops involved in fatal police shootings 68 times without documented explanation. She charged the policeman who gunned down 17-year-old Laquan McDonald with murder 400 days after the shooting, despite dash-cam footage showing the policeman shooting him 16 times. (She defended her inaction to Chicago Magazine.) She failed to charge a cop who falsely arrested 130 people for drunk driving. She punished children for life without parole, despite a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that kind of automatic sentencing unconstitutional. And she was running, this year, for a fourth term.
Knowing this, local grassroots organizations — at the helm of which was a non-profit black feminist organization Assata’s Daughters — worked over the past months to protest fundraisers, speaking events and debates involving Alvarez, and launched #ByeAnita, a social media campaign that exploded on Twitter, which united the voices, articles and information describing Alvarez’s misdoings under one stream.
And everything reached a crescendo in the days leading up to the state’s primary: The group organized 16 banner drops throughout Chicago denouncing her; hired a plane to fly over the city trailing a banner that read, “#ByeAnita;” and posted a video outlining their objections to Alvarez that earned 41,217 views. People signed off on Twitter photos of their “I Voted” stickers with #ByeAnita.
And the result? Alvarez was ousted, claiming only 29 percent; her opponent, Kim Foxx, walked away with 58. Assata’s Daughters capped the victory off with an official statement:
“Chicago Black youth kicked Anita Alvarez out of office. Just a month ago, Anita Alvarez was winning in the polls. Communities who refused to be killed and jailed and abused without any chance at justice refused to allow that to happen. We did this for Rekia. We did this for Laquan. We won’t stop until we’re free and Kim Foxx should know that well.”
By Samantha Schuyler
Poland is now a state of crisis.
It began in October of 2015, when the conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) won a majority of seats in the Polish parliamentary elections. Immediately assuming office, the party began to dismantle the country’s basic pillars of liberal democracy by removing judges previously appointed by the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, passing a new law that puts the state media under government control and politicizing the civil service. PiS also went on to spout right-wing, nationalistic rhetoric, such as leveling charges of espionage and collusion with the Communist government against former President, leader of the Solidarity movement and longtime foe of the party, Lech Walesa.
Then, in an unprecedented move, the European Union began to probe into whether the rule of law was under threat in Poland. A leaked draft from the Venice Commission — a group of legal experts who advise the Council of Europe — concluded that as long as the constitutional court remains “unsettled” and unable to “carry out its work in an efficient manner, not only is the “rule of law in danger, but democracy and basic human rights.”
This finding was followed by a bipartisan letter from U.S. Senators John McCain, Dick Durbin, and Benjamin Cardin that urged Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to uphold democratic norms, lest she and her fellow party members “undermine Poland’s role as a democratic model for other countries in the region still going through difficult transitions.”
Amidst all of this, from December to February, the people have protested. Tens of thousands have marched so far in defense of democracy, wearing badges of solidarity and waving signs of Walesa’s face.
By Molly Minta