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Chicago Mayor On Racial injustice And Protests In Her City


The Democratic National Convention begins tonight. Among the items on tonight's agenda - a conversation with presumptive nominee Joe Biden on racial justice. It is headlined "The Path Forward." And on the panel - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Well, racial justice is an issue Lightfoot has wrestled with. And recently, her city has seen months of demonstrations. Though most have been peaceful, others have not - one of many challenges of governing during this summer of protests and a pandemic with a general election just months away. Mayor Lori Lightfoot joins us now.


LORI LIGHTFOOT: Oh, it's my pleasure to be with you.

KELLY: I want to start with this panel that you taped, I gather, more than a week ago with Joe Biden. What was the message that you were trying to get across that you hoped he'd walk away with?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I think the one thing that's important is that Joe Biden understands the important (ph) engaging in this conversation. This is one of the top line narratives not only of people that are in the streets, but conversations that I am in virtually on a daily basis. The call for finally living up to the promise of our country around racial justice, breaking down institutional racism - those calls could not be louder than they are right now. And I think Joe Biden understands - and I certainly agree - that we need to heed these calls, seize this opportunity and forge solutions on how we can actually move forward.

KELLY: Well, let's talk specifically about Chicago, where you are right...


KELLY: ...In the middle of this. Over the weekend, at least 17 police officers were injured. More than a couple dozen people were arrested - obviously, I'm sure not where you want the city to be at this stage of the summer and racial protests. What happened?

LIGHTFOOT: Look. I think there's a lot of things that are going on in this dynamic, not the least of which is people are anxious and nervous as a result of COVID-19. I think the other thing that is going on is the murder of George Floyd unearthed tensions that are always just below the surface around racial equity and around segregation and systemic racism. And I think the - what people are feeling - this combination of catalytic points is that they're sick and tired of waiting. The status quo is failed. And I understand that, and I agree with that.

KELLY: Now, as you know, there's been criticism from the police and by members of the community for your handling of recent protests. You've shut down parts of downtown to deal with protests. Why do you think the path that you have chosen is the right way to go, given, again, what we saw unfold over the weekend?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, look. I want to be very clear. This has nothing - the measures that we've taken to protect our neighborhoods, including our downtown, is everything about public safety - has nothing to do about protests. Certainly, we're on guard for protests that turn into something else where they've been hijacked by a more violent element that's in them. But fundamentally, we're responding to the looting that happened.

So we have taken those steps proactively. We've done it in concert with residents in our neighborhoods and our business community, and they have heralded the things that we've done because they know that we're taking steps to make sure that their property, their employees and residents are safe.

KELLY: Last thing - the Postal Service. Are you seeing...


KELLY: ...Mailboxes...


KELLY: ...Being removed from the streets in Chicago? Anything going on there?

LIGHTFOOT: We're seeing all sorts of things happening. And again, this is...

KELLY: What are you seeing when you say all sorts of things?

LIGHTFOOT: We're seeing delays in mail. We're seeing people can't even get access to post offices or standing in long lines to get in. We're hearing from the postal union - that they're being deprived of the resources that they need, protective gear, not enough postal workers and that their hours are being shifted to force them to deliver mail in the nighttime.

This is in - a concerted attack on the post office, the postal system. And this isn't just an attack on voting, which is clearly what's motivating it. But as you know, it is a lifeline for many of our residents, and we cannot afford to let this administration bring the postal system across the country to its knees. And we intend to fight back.

KELLY: Just to follow on the actual mailboxes question, are they being removed from the streets of Chicago, to your knowledge?

LIGHTFOOT: We heard that, but we have not seen that.

KELLY: And understanding the broader concerns about everything from medicine being delivered and everything else, but to the immediate election question - how confident are you that voters in Chicago will be able to vote and have their votes counted in the November election?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, look. I think this is a time for us to be creative and be aggressive and make sure that that happens. I want to make sure that every single vote that gets cast, whether it's in person or by ballot, gets to the election authorities and gets counted.

KELLY: That is Chicago mayor, Democrat Lori Lightfoot.

Mayor Lightfoot, thank you for your time.

LIGHTFOOT: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.