CHICAGO (Reuters) – Mayoral candidate Raymond Lopez on Wednesday denounced Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s targeting of the Arab and Muslim community as “disgusting and tasteless”, and promised to launch an investigation into his actions which cost hundreds lost jobs and millions in income and tax revenue.
Lopez added that his administration would restore festivals and the community’s cultural presence to America’s second-largest city.
Last June, a task force of inspectors and police forcibly shut down more than 150 Arab and Muslim-owned businesses in what critics called a misguided effort by Lightfoot to quell gang violence. street. Since most shops are open 24 hours a day, street gang members would often meet them in the middle of the night to evade the police when violence was taking place.
Lopez, the only Hispanic who has announced his candidacy for the Feb. 28, 2023, election in Chicago, made the comments during a live radio interview on “The Ray Hanania Show” which broadcasts live on the US Arab Radio Network and is sponsored by Arab News.
“I am absolutely a friend of the Arab community, not just in words but in action and I will continue to be that friend,” Lopez said, adding that he would work with Arab Americans to bring back the Arabesque Festival which was shut down by former mayor Rahm. Israel Emanuel in 2011, and was sure Lightfoot’s discriminatory policies would end as well.
“It shows how deaf and clueless Lori Lightfoot is to solving the number one problem in the city of Chicago, which is the out of control crime and violence we see, and just blaming gas station and store owners. because that’s where the crime ended, in their parking lots or next to them on their sidewalks. It was a complete miscalculation on his part. I personally think she thought the Arab community would be an easy community to target in the black community because they were just stoking the fires that exist with the animosity that is going on in certain neighborhoods.
Chicago saw an increase in street gang gun-related homicides during Lightfoot’s three years in office, and the mayor was unable to halt the rise.
Lopez joined Arab Business last September to speak out against the mayor’s actions, forcing her to reopen all stores the next day after many had been closed for more than three months.
“All violations, complaints and questions disappeared overnight,” Lopez observed, after the Arab community held a press conference to expose their actions.
“We know that the Arab community is just as integral as any immigrant community. This week we celebrate the Polish community, my Mexican community… we celebrated the Irish community in March. We are all part of the fabric. And pulling a thread and saying they’re the problem is disgusting and tasteless to say the least.
Lopez also vowed to work with the Arab and Muslim community to restore Chicago’s annual Arab festival, Arabesque, which was shut down by Lightfoot’s predecessor Emanuel in one of his first official acts after becoming mayor in 2011. .
Emanuel then proceeded to shut down the Chicago Arab Advisory Commission and exclude Arabs from its administration. Lightfoot promised to work with Arab Americans during her campaign to succeed Emanuel, but did nothing when she was elected mayor in May 2019.
“We know that the Arab community and the Arab voter are often taken for granted. For my part, I grew up with Arabs in my neighborhood… We grew up together in high school. I am no stranger to the Arab community. And I look forward to when we can have the Arab festival again and we can celebrate, which I believe…is the epitome of Chicago nature, celebrating our ethnic diversity to invite all communities to taste our food, listen to our music and enjoy our good company,” Lopez said.
“And there’s no reason why the Arab community can’t be the same part of that tradition as the Mexican community, the Chinese community who (have) their festivals… the Korean community and so on like so many communities across the city. We need to start celebrating our diversity again, because that’s really the only thing we all have in common. We all come from everywhere. There’s no reason to discriminate and choose sides. We we can live under one roof and enjoy each other, and we will again soon.
Lopez said “there should be a place for everyone at the city government table” and that they should feel welcome, as they do in Chicago right now.
“And the millions of dollars that you know these closures are costing not only the city of Chicago but (also) the small business owners who have been affected, and for no reason other than (to) try to find something wrong not, try to find something to write a ticket, try to find something to justify this action. The government shouldn’t be in the business of victimizing people just to create a narrative,” Lopez said.
Lopez acknowledged that the closures cost the city of Chicago millions of dollars in lost tax revenue for gasoline and sales. It also led to the dismissal of hundreds of employees who worked in Arab-owned stores.
Hassan Nijem of the Arab-American Chamber of Commerce said many Arab-owned gas station owners are losing an average of $70,000 in revenue per month. Many stores were closed for two to three months and were never reimbursed by the city for lost revenue.
Lopez said he would join other aldermen, including Gilbert Villegas and Silvana Tabares, in hosting a public forum on Monday, May 9 at the Islamic Community Center of Illinois in Chicago to investigate Lightfoot’s actions against landlords. Arab and Muslim businesses.
He also said the Chicagoland news media needed to do a better job of reviewing Lightfoot’s actions, including against minority groups like Arab Americans.
Lightfoot declined Arab News’ requests for interviews.
The Ray Hanania Radio Show airs on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News live every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690, in Washington DC on WDMV AM 700. It rebroadcasts Thursdays at noon in Chicago. on WNWI AM 1080.
For the podcast and more information about the radio show, visit: ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.
Listen to Ray Hanania’s podcast here.