Chicago ministers say no to King breakfast with the mayor

Hyatt Regency
Activists and bishops plan to protest outside of Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place on Friday, Jan. 15. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)

By Hannah Gebresilassie

Who wants breakfast?

Not ministers and activists in Chicago.

In light of the controversy surrounding the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and Cedrick Chatman, also 17, religious leaders say they will join activists in a protest on Friday morning outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s planned private commemorative breakfast of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bishop Tavis Grant of Greater First Baptist Church, along with activists and 50 to 60 ministers in Chicago, are boycotting the event because they find it “gratuitous.” Activists plan to try and keep others out of the breakfast by locking arms in front of the entrance.

Instead of hosting a breakfast, the mayor’s office should be out in the community helping the homeless, Grant said.

“[Dr. King’s] last days were not spent eating a nice breakfast in a 5-star hotel,” Grant said in a phone interview, adding he feels Dr. King would commend them for taking a stand against poverty.

Grant and other activists plan to hold a protest in front of the breakfast site, Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place, hoping to push people to question why Emanuel is taking a step backwards when the height of concern is elsewhere.

“It’s not a black problem, it’s not a white problem, it’s a human rights problem,” Grant said. “Laquan McDonald was a human being.”

Emanuel has been in hot water over the McDonald police shooting case for claims of intentionally suppressing video footage regarding the deadly incident to protect his re-election.

In late November 2015, Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder — more than a year after shooting McDonald 16 times. The arrest came along with long-delayed released of a police camera video of the shoooting. The video sparked weeks of protests, including disruption of shopping on North Michigan Avenue on several of the busiest shopping days of the year. Van Dyke  pleaded not guilty and was released on a $1.5 million bond in December.

Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit Church said he would like to see a conversation with the mayor’s office to address the controversy in place of the exclusive breakfast.

Trotter expects the protesters will include young activists, such as Jedidiah Brown, pastor of Chosen Generation Church.

“I think this is symbolic for pastors to understand that sometimes you can’t sit at the king’s table and break bread when you have to be a voice,” Brown said in a phone interview, adding he believes pastors should be a moral voice of righteousness on Friday instead of eating and laughing with the mayor.

Grant, Trotter and Brown plan to arrive to the breakfast protest around 6: 30 a.m. The 2016 Interfaith Breakfast will be held at 8 a.m. Friday at the Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place off South Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Each year, the City of Chicago holds a ceremonial breakfast to reflect and honor the accomplishments of Dr. King, inaugurated by Mayor Harold Washington in 1985.

Photo at top: Ministers and activists plan to protest outside of Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place on Friday, Jan. 15. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)