That was the hashtag that quickly began to trend Tuesday night as news spread throughout Illinois and the nation at large that the incumbent Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez had lost her reelection bid to Kim Foxx.
Foxx’s inspiring story, from being raised in the notorious Cabrini-Green projects as a young girl to rising to the halls of power in Chicago, was secondary, though. The bigger story belonged to the Black Lives Matter activists who upended Alvarez’s entire campaign by shining a bright light on her general malfeasance, but especially as it related to the execution of Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
Alvarez waited over a full year before bringing any charges against Van Dyke, and if it wasn’t for the lawsuit from freelance journalist Brandon Smith, who requested the release of the dashcam footage of McDonald’s shooting under the Freedom of Information Act, she may not have been voted out this swiftly — or this harshly. Alvarez was absolutely trounced by Foxx, who won 57.5 percent of the vote to Alvarez’s 29 percent.
But Tuesday’s win was only the beginning of what became a good night for many in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Out in Ohio, Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor who came under fire for his mishandling of the grand jury in the Tamir Rice case, lost a close primary against Mike O’Malley. McGinty caught hell nationwide for aggressively clearing the officers who murdered Rice of any charges.
This is huge news for two main reasons. First, prosecutors win their re-elections 95 percent of the time. And second, both defeats can be traced directly to the protesting of Black Lives Matter.
Let’s be clear on her shortcomings: Anita Alvarez has cleared killer cops more than 68 times throughout the course of her tenure. She colluded with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to avoid pressing charges against officers. She helped bury dashcam videos. She refused to explain to, or collaborate with, her colleagues on most decisions, so neither her coworkers nor the public were granted any real transparency.
Any good she might have done has been publicly outweighed by the negative. This was the case that activists made against Alvarez, and the job they did was not only good enough to garner national attention to her grotesque corruption but also enough to inspire voters to kick her out of office.
Cleveland, a city with an equally intense relationship between black residents and police officers, has been rocked by tragic incidents beyond Tamir Rice. These include the contentious death of mentally-ill Tanisha Anderson and the brutal slaying of Kenny Smith — both cases which Cuyahoga County prosectur Timothy McGinty presided over and found “no wrongdoing” in. In Smith’s case, despite his family being recently awarded $5.5 million in a wrongful death suit, McGinty hailed the officers for “correctly and heroically [taking] action to protect the safety of the citizens of Cleveland.”
While getting Alvarez and McGinty out of office was a great step for anyone truly interested in police reform and protecting the safety of black people in these respective cities, we cannot call the election of Kim Foxx and Mike O’Malley victories for the Black Lives Matter movement until we see the jobs they do in office, a reality black activists groups like Black Youth Project (BYP) 100 have acknowledged.
Foxx has stated in the past that criminal justice reform is important to her and providing transparency is a necessity, which definitely sounds good, but it must be put into practice before we start celebrating the beginning of a new day. O’Malley must be held to a high standard and meet it before we declare his ascendancy a success.
While we collectively consider the impact we want these new state’s attorneys to have on society, we also need to give a big nod to each and every protester who marched up and down the concrete advocating for us all. Without them, this victory may have never come to fruition.