Asian American community members unite against Anita Alvarez

Two dozen Asian Americans protested in downtown Chicago against incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in front of 69 W. Washington. (Shanshan Wang / MEDILL)

By Shanshan Wang

Accusing Anita Alvarez of inaction during police brutality investigations, two dozen Asian Americans protested in downtown Chicago Tuesday against the incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney.

Participants, mostly young people from a variety of communities, chanted “Anita Alvarez must go” in English as well as in Korean, Cantonese, Bangla and Tagalog. Their hope is that people will vote Alvarez out of office in the upcoming March 15 election.

“We have seen candidates like Anita Alvarez attend Asian cultural events in order to ‘win’ our support, while ignoring our community’s actual needs and concerns when they are elected into office,” said Lakshmi Sundaresan, a South Asian American community member, at the press conference.

Community members stood in front of 69 W. Washington, where Alvarez’s office and the Board of Elections Commissioners for the City of Chicago are located. The crowd chanted “Sixteen shots!”, criticizing Alvarez for waiting over a year to charge Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

“I think it’s important for Asian Americans to stand in solidarity with the black community in Chicago, especially after the recent cover-up that happened with Laquan McDonald’s shooting,” said Nashiha Alam, 21, a senior from Loyola University Chicago, who held a sign in Bangla. “We need to mobilize our community to come out and take action to produce actual change.”

Community members gave out “Ten Things I Hate About Anita” pamphlets, which were produced by Eva Nagao and Monica Trinidad. (Shanshan Wang / MEDILL)

The speakers also pointed out cases involving Asian Americans, including the case in 2013 in which a Chinese American woman, Jessica Jianqing Klyzek, was struck by the police and verbally abused during a raid on a West Side tanning salon. Klyzek was threatened with death and deportation though she is a U.S. citizen.

“The police feel free to act this way thanks to a police culture that doesn’t value life, a corrupt State’s Attorneys Office led by Anita Alvarez, and an intentionally impotent ‘Independent’ Police Review Authority,” said Bettina Johnson, a mixed race Black and Filipino community member, who spoke at the press conference.

Alvarez has been faced with many protests as she runs for a third term in office, vying against Kim Foxx and Donna More. According to the Chicago Tribune, during a February 4 debate before the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, Alvarez defended the investigation of the Laquan McDonald case, saying she believed no mistakes were made. “It has been a meticulous, thorough, comprehensive investigation,” she said at the time.

Sundaresan said the group that gathered downtown Tuesday want to be clear that they do not work for or coordinate with the Kim Foxx campaign but believe Foxx is a strong alternative candidate. After the press conference, some community members marched inside the building to vote early.

Photo at top: Two dozen Asian Americans protested in downtown Chicago against incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in front of 69 W. Washington. (Shanshan Wang / MEDILL)