Emanuel campaign draws protesters, supporters to rally

November 18, 2010

Rahm Emanuel officially announced Saturday he would run for Chicago mayor. The highly controlled event held at Coonley School can be seen here.

The enthusiastic crowd was balanced, though there was a noticeable dominance by whites. The Bulldog’s photographer at the event noted she was standing next to the official photographer for the campaign who was instructed to find and photograph minority representation.

Among the crowd inside was 47th Ward Alderman Eugene Schulter (D- North Center) and retired Coonley Principal Katherine Kennedy-Kartheiser.

Inside, the Emanuel campaign herded the press into a bullpen. Cameras were given choice angles and vantage points to shoot. Writers were standing elbow to elbow and far enough away that even if they had managed to raise their hands the candidate could safely ignore their questions.

The news inside was safe. If Emanuel (D- Old Ravenswood) so much as brought a peanut into Coonley school, the press would be on it.

While the press could report the news, they couldn’t challenge Emanuel. That’s been the pattern of this campaign from the start of the listening tour.

Outside, the crowd was mirrored by a smaller but no less enthusiastic group of protesters at the corner of Leavitt and Cuyler. But, after talking to the protesters for a few minutes, the media ignored the protests.

The ultimate control weapon, the police, watched the protesters closely. One officer called his supervisor on his cell to discuss whether a bullhorn constituted enough of a threat to be silenced. Later, after a protester stopped to chat, he came over and said she couldn’t wear a political button on school property. This was amid a sea of pro-Rahm buttons inside the school and on the grounds around it.

This older woman, hunched over from osteoporosis, would have to leave the school grounds and go around to her vehicle according to the officer.

Rain began to pour down. Maybe it is the ultimate weapon in crowd control. But it doesn’t answer even to Rahm Emanuel.

Protesters carrying bullhorns eagerly tugging on the cape of the media are of little concern to a campaign as professionally organized, financed and run as Emanuel’s.

But not all the establishment is on their side. And the real threat isn’t some random protesters who can be swept into the back of a police wagon at the whim of an officer or dispersed by a cloud burst.

As John Kass noted in the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel’s residency was twice tested by the Chicago Board of Elections in a purge of the voting roles. Emanuel was removed from the voting list twice and then returned to the lists.

Who could arrange something like that? Kass answered in his column: putting Emanuel on the roles was probably a violation of election law and the procedures in place at the Chicago Board of Elections according to testimony given by Chicago Board of Elections head Langdon Neal to no less a Rahm opponent than Ald. Ed Burke.

The whole matter, according to Kass, will probably come up for consideration when Emanuel’s campaign faces a residency challenge.

The threat of being removed from the voting lists? That’s being taken seriously. Facing critics and the press? That’s not a serious threat.

Monday, while other candidates talked to the press outside 69 W Washington, Emanuel was elsewhere. There was no need for him to be there when the campaign “Chicago for Rahm” filed petitions on his behalf to join the ballot.

Wednesday the Emanuel campaign made Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer available to the press to discuss efforts to limit choices of Chicago voters. And the campaign has called on its opponents to renounce attorney Burt Odelson’s plans to challenge Emanuel’s residency.

It is a hard ball reply to a real threat posed by Odelson’s clients.

Emanuel knows it can work because his former boss was successful in using election law to clear the road of opposition. No, you didn’t read it here first, but President Barack Obama used ballot challenges to clear opposition from his run for Illinois State Senator.

Emanuel is among the blessed, an insider with lots of money. The law, which seems clearly against him, will be bent and manipulated to his benefit if his lawyers have their way. (Read how Deb Mell was challenged in the primary and then used the law to clear her reelection in the general election.)

Outside Coonley neighbors were asking if Emanuel was swearing during his speech (he didn’t). About as many supporters as there were protesters, most from Ravenswood, gathered to gawk at the news trucks and the protesters.

Teresa, an Irish immigrant, stood along Coonley’s fence looking sadly at the protesters. She wore a Rahm button and said she wished the protesters would go away. Also, she couldn’t get into the invitation-only event.

Another Ravenswood resident, an American worker in the French trade commission, was also disappointed to be refused at the door. A father and his child were turned away. They’d seen local media reports of the meeting and believed it was open to the public.

Other Ravenswood residents talked about working with Rahm when he was a freshman Congressman and they were working against US military action in Afghanistan.

Of all the faces of the Emanuel campaign, especially the Washington professionals imposing and controlling the message, this is the most heartening and human. People want to be there to watch him and listen to him. They knew him when he was just a Congressman.

They want him to be mayor.

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