CHICAGO | A group of African-American pastors and activists are supporting recently removed Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board President Kenneth Williams in their political fight against Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
The group says that Alvarez is singling out black men for prosecution to an excessive degree, and they held a news conference at the studios of Urban Broadcast Media to support Williams while also criticizing Alvarez. About 30 supporters attended the news conference.
“Her misuse of authority is unfair and unjust,” said the Rev. Roosevelt Watkins, of the United for Change organization. “Our community is standing as one against her.”
The pastors held their news conference on Veterans Day, a day on which the state’s attorney’s office was closed for business. Alvarez was unavailable Monday to comment. The Times emailed Alvarez's communications office and left voice mail messages in an attempt to reach a spokesperson. The Times will publish Alvarez's reaction as soon as it is available.
Carl West, an activist from Truth B Told, said their statement was made on Veterans Day because officials feel it important to get the word out now about what happened to Williams. They are also advocating for justice in the slaying of Rekia Boyd, of Chicago, and Howard Morgan, a former Chicago police officer shot by police, and later sentenced to 40 years in prison. All three causes involve African Americans.
West also said the activists are looking to find a candidate to challenge Alvarez when her office is up for re-election in 2016, and they plan to continue with protests critical of Alvarez. While the Rev. Ira Acree, of Greater St. John Bible Church, said, "the degradation from the state's attorney's office must stop now."
Williams was ordered removed last month from the School Board post to which he was elected in 2009 and in 2013 by a Cook County judge, who ruled that Williams’ 1985 conviction for aiding in a forgery amounted to an “infamous crime” that made him ineligible to hold office.
But one of Williams’ attorneys, Andrew Finkel, said that concept is based on outdated law.
“Ken Williams has lived a life, his story is one of 30 years of accomplishments,” Finkel said. “But because of the folly of youth, some people want to brand him.”
Williams received a five-year prison sentence for his conviction in Indiana, for which he served 22 months in prison. He has not been convicted of anything since, and has developed his own business, a barber college in Dolton.
The matter is now before the Illinois Appellate Court, and Finkel said he hopes to learn this week whether a judicial panel will grant a stay allowing Williams to remain on the School Board while his appeal is pending. That case could come up some time in January or February, Finkel said.
Williams did not comment Monday. Finkel said he believes the case is motivated by local politics because Williams has tried to impose various changes in the way the school district conducts business.
“Ken brings a wealth of knowledge and ability to the school district,” Finkel said. “He is trying to shift focus to the kids, which is what a school official should do.”