On October 12th, Illinois Latinx leaders held a press conference to denounce Los Angeles city council member Nury Martinez’s racist, anti-Indigenous, homophobic comments and demand Los Angeles council members address their wrongdoings. The press conference was called by former Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, Puerto Rican Agenda members, and leaders of Chicago’s Black community; Senate Black Caucus Chair Robert Peters and State Representative Lamont Robinson. During the press conference, former Congressman Luis Gutiérrez explained that when he heard the offensive comments made by Nury Martínez and other Latinx city officials he called his friend State Representative Lamont Robinson and said they needed to hold this press conference to show solidarity between the Black and Latinx communities of Chicago. Gutiérrez mentioned multiple times during the press conference the fact that he was only able to achieve his position as Congressman because of the Black civil rights leaders who put their lives on the line to fight for the Civil Rights Act and for the Voting Rights Act. Multiple leaders brought up the example of Harold Washington to show how much we can accomplish when Black and Latinx communities work in solidarity. Latinx leaders like Senator Cristina Pacione Zayas and Puerto Rican Agenda Co-Chair Jessie Fuentes called on Chicago’s Latinx community to recognize and repair the anti-Blackness within the Latinx culture, and discussed the internalized colonialism and self-hatred shown by Nury Martínez’s comments. Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García called for a process of restorative justice, and multiple leaders during the press conference mentioned the reparations owed to Black and Latinx people in the United States as a reminder of how important it is for our communities to keep fighting together until the sins of the past have been atoned for.
Senate Black Caucus Chair Robert Peters gave a passionate speech referencing the many shows of solidarity seen in 2020 after the police murder of George Floyd, and he called on the Latinx community to continue those shows of solidarity now. In particular, Peters brought up the disinformation campaign politicians have been mounting against the SAFE-T Act, and called on Latinx community leaders to denounce this misinformation campaign, and stand with the Black Caucus to protect this pivotal criminal justice reform law. This disinformation campaign has called the SAFE-T Act the “Purge Law”, and Republican elected officials and their allies have incessantly spread myths, half-truths, and intentional falsehoods about the SAFE-T Act, like State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow who said dozens of people accused of murder will be released from his county’s jail as soon as the law goes into effect. Most recently there have been racist yard signs reading “Don’t let Black Caucus Write Our Laws”, which emphasizes that this fear-based propaganda is about more than just the policy; it is an active investment in dehumanizing people from oppressed communities in order to bolster support for oppressive state violence in the forms of carceral systems as a false promise of control. The truth is “the SAFE-T Act will abolish cash bail across the state. Once in effect, a defendant can only be detained in jail pretrial if they’re charged with specific types of felonies, such as murder and sexual assault, and if prosecutors prove to a judge that a defendant is a flight risk or “poses a specific, real, and present threat to any person or the community.” Please see the fact sheet on the SAFE-T Act for more information.
The press conference ended with words from The Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Executive Director, José E. López as he reminded the audience that history does not repeat itself, but historical problems insist on being resolved. The comments made by Nury Martínez are rooted in the much deeper historical problem of colonialism that we must all work to resolve. The conference ended with the quote from W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins”, and a call to action to Black and Latinx communities to work together and recognize our real enemy.