Oak Park mayor apologizes; receives criticism for saying police also profiled

Comments about police profiling draw criticism from community members

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb has issued an apology after coming under fire for comments he made during a June 1 virtual board meeting likening the profiling police receive with profiling experienced by African Americans.

"I am sorry for the pain that this misrepresentation has caused many of you—I did not and do not intend to minimize the pain and suffering that African-Americans have endured through history and are going through right now nor to suggest that police mistreatment, especially of black men, is not an urgent problem in our country that needs to be solved and solved quickly," Abu-Taleb said in his apology.

Within his apology statement sent to Wednesday Journal, the mayor stated that his comments regarding police profiling were taken out of context. To read Abu-Taleb's apology in full, please see the sidebar.

During the June 1 meeting, the mayor began his closing statement by denouncing racism and called on the village to work to heal, help and restore trust in the community, saying,  "I think we should all look for a day where a person of color, when they get stopped by the police, it's not a fearful experience for them."

Shortly after, Abu-Taleb praised the Oak Park Police Department and described job difficulties associated with police work.

"We have a police department – the police, when they hear a gunshot, they run toward it, as you know," the mayor said. "With any of you, any of you right now, for whatever money in the world, would want to be a police officer? Raise your hand, please, if you would want to be a police officer for any money in the world right now. It's a hard job. It's a dangerous job."

Abu-Taleb then went on to say that police experience profiling by citizens similar to that of the profiling African Americans face when interacting with police – a comparison that drew criticism from members of the Oak Park community.

"You're being profiled against because you're a police officer. It's the same issue on the other side. A person of color is profiled against because they're of color and a police officer nowadays feels the same exact way," he said. "It's assumed because they're wearing the uniform, they are not going to treat people of color in a fair manner."

Oak Park residents have taken to social media to express their displeasure with the mayor's words which he delivered amid nationwide protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd, an African American man who died at the knee of a white police officer May 31 in Minneapolis.

Village resident Steve Krasinsky posted a video of Abu-Taleb's statement on his Facebook page and encouraged people to share the post if they felt so inclined.

"The depth of our village president's mis-understanding and his utter lack of self-awareness and leadership at this exact moment is staggering," Krasinsky's post reads. "This is what we're up against in the fight for justice in Oak Park."

Paul Goyette, photographer and Oak Park resident, also took to Facebook to spread awareness of Abu-Taleb's comparison, including the same video clip with a hat tip to Krasinsky.

"Here is the mayor of Oak Park explaining how police are profiled 'the same exact way' as people of color," Goyette wrote.

Goyette also said in his post that the village board voted during that meeting to give Abu-Taleb the authority to declare a local state of emergency and the ability to impose a nightly curfew, which Abu-Taleb subsequently did. The declaration expires June 9.

"This was after five of six trustees voted him the authority to impose curfews whenever he deems necessary over the next week and a half," Goyette's post reads.

Anthony Clark, an OPRF teacher and social activist, shared Goyette's post on the Suburban Unity Alliance Facebook page, writing, "Oak Park, where police that systemically across this nation continue to kill innocent Black people, are somehow treated just like Black people....."

Clark's post received 43 comments in which people criticized Abu-Taleb's words, calling them "absolutely ignorant," "inexcusable," "profoundly disappointing," and "trash."

Some commenters said they had emailed the mayor and expressed the desire for the creation of a petition to remove Abu-Taleb from office.

Clark alluded to Abu-Taleb in a second post. In large white font against a black background, Clark's post reads, "Oak Park needs a new village president!"

Maya del Sol restaurant, which Abu-Taleb's family owns, sent an email Wednesday affirming its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as its commitment to inclusion:

"We have always been, and will always be, a place where people of all walks, race, ethnicity, creed, gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, and all different views of the world, EXCEPT those of hatred and intolerance, are welcomed, embraced, and celebrated. It is a tragedy to see what is happening in this country, and across the world, and even more tragic that it has gone on for so long."

The email said Maya del Sol stands in solidarity with the black community and disavowed police brutality:

"We stand with the black community. We stand against police brutality. We stand against any element of racism that exists in this world. We stand committed to amplifying the voices of our black team members. We stand committed to dismantling systemic racism in this country and in our communities. Black pain matters. Black voices matter. Black Lives Matter."

 This story has been updated to include an apology from the mayor.

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Reader Comments

27 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Gregg Kuenster  

Posted: June 10th, 2020 3:55 PM

President/Mayor Anan is Palestinian. " He is quick to come to a defensiveness about his own racism- claiming that he is not. That type of defensiveness is a fragility many may be feeling in this moment- to not want to be labeled as individually racist." Fragility & defensive? I know Anan. Those adjectives do not describe him. Austin needs jobs. Austin needs jobs.

Hannah Zeller from Oak Park   

Posted: June 10th, 2020 2:04 PM

The mayor's apology is not acceptable because it seems he doesn't understand the nature of the original flaw in his statement. "You're being profiled against because you're a police officer. It's the same issue on the other side. A person of color is profiled against because they're of color and a police officer nowadays feels the same exact way." In his response he goes on to say "I will not cast a blanket label of racism on our Oak Park police officers due to the actions of police officers in other communities, including Minneapolis." This response is fundamentally missing the issue -because it isn't about individual officers, it is about the systemic problem we have had with policing in this country. That police institutions were created to maintain social order and America's premise of social order is based on White Supremacy. You can tell he doesn't understand that because he is quick to come to a defensiveness about his own racism- claiming that he is not. That type of defensiveness is a fragility many may be feeling in this moment- to not want to be labeled as individually racist. The police force cannot be profiled in the way black people are profiled in this country, because the police force is the very institution since slavery, through Jim Crow to present day killings of unarmed Black people that maintains the social order we have now- which is disordered because it is based on White Supremacy.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 8th, 2020 7:00 PM

@Kelly. I agree.

Kelly Bacon Desmarais  

Posted: June 8th, 2020 6:00 PM

The mayor had nothing to apologize for.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 3:16 PM

Jason, well said. I think the police should have massive probable cause before pulling anyone over. There is no one who deserves to be harassed by police. It's a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 2:03 PM

Deaths are obviously heavily in focus right now but let's not forget the large number of AA citizens that have to deal with police well more than they should. Case in point I have a buddy that's been pulled over 13 times in the last several years. He's never been cited but it's all in the name of suspicious activity or someone called in a description similar to yours. He's legitimately scared each and every time. As we have all said most police are good people doing a hard job but things need to change. I personally think the real issue is the idea that police protect their own. Police should protect everyone. There will always be bad apples but the good ones need to speak up.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 1:31 PM

William, well said. Hopefully, the police that haven't got the message, now have.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 1:27 PM

Neal: so?

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 1:21 PM

I'd also point out- calmly and dispassionately, since I'm not likely to ever have to endure it- that not one police officer of any ethnicity has died as the result of a choke hold, a knee on the neck or trauma from being handcuffed and helpless during a "rough ride" after arrest. Nor from lynching or from being toed to the back of a pickup and dragged for three miles on gravel. That brutal and inhumane treatment is, I believe, what black people are most upset with.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 1:16 PM

William, the Washington Post states that there were 376 whites, and 236 blacks killed by police. 19 whites were unarmed, and 9 blacks were unarmed.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 1:09 PM

Jason, the Washington Posts keeps a database that shows the number of unarmed blacks killed by police. Census.gov, estimates a U. S. population, of which 13.4% are black. Cnn.com has the pictures of officers killed in the article, "In the last 50 weeks, 38 officers have been shot to death in the line of duty." On datausa.io it says there are 798,000 police of which 13.3% are black, which comes to 105,868 black police. Hope this helps.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 1:01 PM

The seven black officers killed comes from the FBI. It's unclear where the black citizen number comes from. The Washington Post reported last year that 1,004 people were shot and killed by police in 2019, and I'm sure a large percentage of those were black. In any event, statistically he's comparing apples to oranges, comparing a whole population with a tiny subset of that population.

Rob Ruffulo  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 12:35 PM

He should not have to apologize. Total BS as usual in OP. He is entitled to freedom of speech as we all are.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 12:27 PM

@Neal, please state your source material for this number. These stats are not well documented as the police departments don't categorize the data this way. That's one of the issues.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 11:56 AM

I know fact don't matter when people feel immense emotions, but I'll state some facts anyway - In 2019, there were 9 unarmed blacks killed by police. The black population in America is about 42 million. In 2019 there were 7 black police shot and killed. There are about 105,000 black police in America.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 10:09 AM

Wednesday Journal trying really hard to stir things up. 43 comments, wow so many, while tens of thousands are fine with the mayor. Krasinsky not liking someone is a big so what. Clark is always desperate for any attention, so what.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 9:30 AM

This is a big part of the problem with Oak Park dialogue nowadays- it's always an either/or, right or wrong proposition in too many people's minds. Anan's comments were genuinely supportive of the protestors and the long frustration of black people in this country over unfair andblantamntly illegal treatment. But then Anan dared to suggest police can be targets too, as events in recent years clearly show they can be and are- ask the new Chicago police superintendent. While true, it was best left unsaid for the moment, because, as has been shown. it could be taken the wrong way and seem insensitive. And it was, taken out of context, ignoring everything else he said.

George Irving Thompson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 9:00 AM

One reason Oak Park citizens may tend to want to defend our police officers is that we know the department has in the recent past attempted to be diverse and advocate for the citizens. I personally worked with Chief Rick Tanksley when I was a political activist advocating for community changes to discourage drug and alcohol use by community youth. I admire Rick because he bravely stood up for me and my 1st amendment rights when the then acting village lawyer attacked my efforts to work jointly with the police department. He may have been putting his job on the line to fight for me in an issue that was never made public. Some time after that period in time I noticed an article where he had described being unfairly arrested by a black police officer prior to becoming an officer himself. I had never told him about a prior experience I had with the Chicago police where I had been assaulted and unfairly arrested by a black police officer. After several weeks of agony not knowing what would happen to me, my case was dropped because of a witness that came forward. So unknowing, we both had one thing in common. We both had been unfairly arrested by a black police officer. So for once in my life I had a notion of what black people face in this country. That wasn't true for Rick. For those of you who don't know he is a black man and I am a white man. Regardless of my past personal experience, the one thing I hope for is that more black men like Rick will step forward and become police officers and bolster our police forces in the future to be diverse and have integrity.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 5:36 AM

It's shocking to see anyone defend Anan's statements. As the leader of our local govt his words matter and these words tell me he doesn't understand the problem which is disturbing. To say that the police are suffering the same issues as those being targeted by police simply for being black is ridiculous. The police choose this job. They carry all the power. They carry guns. When they leave the job each day or retire that's that. For black people this is a forever problem. Nobody is saying all police are bad. The current protests will pass and then most police will go back to their standard day to day. That's not the case for black people. They can't stop being black. This is poor leadership at best and racism at worst. I don't believe he's running again so saying I wouldn't vote for him doesn't matter but he will not be receiving another $1 from me at any establishment he owns,

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 5th, 2020 12:22 AM

I agree with Neal and George. and Jim. Mr. Krasinky's post - as near as I can determine - was only a small sampling of Mayor Anan's full statement. So I don't think this criticism of the Mayor is very fair. This strikes me as further attempts to turn up the heat on an already red hot issue. What we need is healing, not more name calling and divisiveness.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2020 9:21 PM

I have known Anan and his family for over 30 years. Anyone who accuses Anan and his family of anything but kindness should be ashamed of themselves. In this hyper situation, there is no better person to lead our village. I am really pissed off at the ignorant comments by some. As far as the police are concerned, we have some of the finest police in the country, being judged by a bad cop who murdered an innocent man in Minnesota. Let's bring the temperature down, and realize most of us look at others as fellow human beings.

Jim Bowman from CHICAGO  

Posted: June 4th, 2020 9:17 PM

Well said, George Irving Thompson!

George Irving Thompson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2020 8:24 PM

It appears to me that the mayor is making a genuine attempt to contribute to the conversation about racism and discrimination via his comments regarding the viewpoints of some people about the police. Therefore, it is inappropriate to suggest he is a racist. A racist is someone who blatantly hates other people because of an ethnic difference and considers them inferior. That is obvious not the case for the mayor or anyone else willing to contribute to a discussion that needs to be made. Just because someone may feel he misunderstands the issue or doesn't "get it" is ironic because from my perspective the mayor is being constructive and genuine in an effort to resolve a very serious and complex social issue. Throwing around suggestions that some is biased or racist simply because you don't agree with their point of view is contributing to the problem because without an open discussion the problem will fester and not be resolved. If someone is genuine and attempting to understand and resolve racism please don't call them biased or racist. Doing so makes you a hypocrite because it shows your own bias and lack of critical thinking.

Henry Fulkerson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2020 8:06 PM

Anan is completely tone deaf and unaware of his own racist bias. It is time for him to go.

Rachel Stark from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2020 7:35 PM

The great news is if a cop is not up for the demands of the job, they can quit. You can't quit being black. If he wants people to trust cops, he can do more to ensure bad cops are weeded out and rules are put in place to ensure the police protect people instead of needlessly making their lives worse.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: June 3rd, 2020 7:07 PM

If you read the story from what the Village President said, it is just saying the Police also are unfairly profiled which is true. Maybe the Village President should not have explained how difficult a Police Officer's job is, and especially at this time when there are so many people ready to jump at anything negative against Police. If you want to change a system then you better make sure you have a better system to change to

Jim Bowman from CHICAGO  

Posted: June 3rd, 2020 6:55 PM

Oh my. How is profiling different no matter who's profiled?

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