The Interfaith Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfast has been hosted each year by the City of Chicago Mayor since it began under the late Mayor Harold Washington’s administration in the 1980’s. Each year, CIOGC has enthusiastically participated in this tribute to the great African American civil rights leader and attended on behalf of Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (CRLMC). But this year, it was not business as usual. In solidarity with African American community leaders who were boycotting the event to protest ongoing injustices against the African American community, CIOGC made the decision not to attend the Breakfast. It is reported that over 70 pastors who are usually at the MLK gathering did not attend. Many clergy were also at the rally. The general message was that it is disingenuous to hold one of the most prominent civil right’s leaders in celebration when little action was being taken to uphold his values.
“Dr. King was an advocate for the poor,” said Reverend Ira Acree. “He was not an agent for the elite. That’s why we’re here today to announce that we will support the boycott that the activists and other pastors have called for.”
CIOGC respectfully declined from attending the breakfast to stand in solidarity with the African American sentiment and to uphold Islamic principles of justice and equality.
Protestors gathered at 6 a.m. at the Hyatt McCormick to prevent others from attending.
“We have a defiant mayor who does not know the pulse of the community. We have communities in uproar. We have social services that are not being adequately distributed to our communities,” said Bishop James Dukes. “In this day and age, we don’t think that a Kum Ba Yah breakfast at this moment is the time that we should be at the table with our mayor.”
Father Michael Pfleger of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina, did not attend the event but said that he is not choosing sides.
Reverend Matthew Ross, a South Side minister, was one of three who disrupted the breakfast, shouting the protestors chant “sixteen shots and a cover up,” in reference to Laquan McDonald. “I did what I did because when I take this collar off, I look just like Laquan McDonald,” the minister said. He was escorted outside after the incident.
Bishop Dukes said he and other activists see Chicago in an uproar over conditions similar to those Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to improve in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.
For more details, see the Chicago Tribune article “Protests, boycott greet Emanuel at MLK breakfast” here.