The mayor of Chicago was under fire Wednesday following revelations that city lawyers had tried to block a local TV station from airing body-camera video of police handcuffing a naked Black woman during a botched raid last year.
The video of police officers smashing open the door of Anjanette Young’s townhouse in February 2019 and mistakenly detaining the social worker was obtained by the local CBS affiliate and aired Monday evening over the city’s objections.
“I don’t believe it’s fair that the city has spent the last two years telling me they did nothing wrong, not holding the officers accountable, not working with my attorneys to figure out how to resolve this,” an angry Young said Wednesday.
Asked what she would say to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Young said: “I was there when you came to my church, and I voted for you. I told people to vote for you.”
“I believed in you as a black woman running for mayor,” she added. “I want you to come back to my church and tell me and the people in my church how you’re going to fix this. It’s not OK.”
Ja’Mal Green, a community activist, scoffed at Lightfoot’s claim that she wasn’t aware of what happened to Young or that her legal team had tried to stop CBS from broadcasting the video.
“How are you suppressing videos and the mayor don’t know about it?” Green said. “She has to be held accountable.”
But Lightfoot, who promised to bring more transparency and accountability to the Chicago Police Department when she was elected in April 2019, insisted Wednesday that she was not aware city lawyers had tried to suppress the video.
“Filing a motion against a media outlet to prevent something from being published is something that should rarely, if ever, happen,” she said during a news conference. “And had I been advised that this was in the works, I would have stopped it in its tracks. This is not how we operate. Period.”
As for the video itself, Lightfoot said she was “completely and totally appalled.”
“I could have easily been Ms. Young,” she said. “And I can put myself in her place.”
Earlier, Lightfoot had expressed sympathy for Young while insisting that the raid “was not something that happened on my watch.”
“Today, I became aware of an incident involving Ms. Anjanette Young from February 2019, before I became mayor, and I saw a video today for the first time,” Lightfoot reiterated in an official statement Tuesday. “I had no knowledge of either until today. I had a very emotional reaction to what was depicted on the video as I imagine that many people did.”
Lightfoot also noted that the police department had made changes to its search warrant policy in January and that she has “directed a review of how this matter was handled by various City departments to determine that there was compliance with City procedures.”
Young, 50, said she was getting ready for bed when a dozen armed officers suddenly barged inside her home looking for a suspect wanted for unlawful use of a handgun by a felon and possession of ammunition and a small amount of drugs.
“Oh my God. This cannot be right,” a stunned Young could be heard saying in the footage. “How can this be legal?”
For at least 30 minutes, a weeping Young told the officers repeatedly, “You got the wrong house!”
Young was right. The police had been acting on a tip from a confidential informant who said the suspect they were seeking was at Young’s address when he actually lived nearby and was already being electronically monitored by the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“To have my home invaded the way it was, and to have police officers for 40 minutes, yelling at me, telling me to calm down, while naked, putting handcuffs of me,” Young said Wednesday. “No one should have to experience that.”
Young filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year to obtain the footage, but the police department turned her down and also denied a separate FOIA request filed by CBS 2, which was doing a series on police raids in the city.
It took intervention from a federal court to get police to release the video to Young’s lawyer as part of her lawsuit against the department.
When they learned that CBS 2 was planning to air the video, the city’s lawyers filed an emergency motion claiming Young and her attorney had violated a confidential agreement and also asked for sanctions against Young.
CBS 2’s lawyers countered by calling the city’s request “one of the most extraordinary forms of relief known in our jurisprudence — a prior restraint on a news report about a matter of public concern.”
They argued that CBS 2 was not party to that confidentiality order and that the First Amendment gave them the right to air the footage. And a federal judge agreed.
Lightfoot was elected as a reformer by a city outraged over a police dashboard camera video that showed Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, in October 2014.
The city had resisted releasing that video, which made a lie of police claims that the shooting was justified because McDonald had assaulted the officers.