Members of a Chicago mental health advocacy group accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) of threatening them following a confrontation during a public appearannce, DNAinfo Chicago reported.
Debbie Delgado and Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle from the Mental Health Movement said Emanuel behaved aggressively toward them in a private meeting on Wednesday night following his remarks to a group of residents in Wicker Park.
“There was an inch between our faces, he was that close,” Ginsberg-Jaeckle said. Delgado said that at one point, the mayor told them, “you’re gonna respect me!”
A spokesperson for Emanuel, who is campaigning in advance of an April 7 runoff election against fellow Democrat Jesús “Chuy” García, denied the allegation in a statement.
“The mayor was eager to get to the substance of the residents’ concerns,” the statement read. “After respectfully listening to the residents, he asked that they respectfully listen to his point of view. As a result, the meeting ended cordially, and the mayor is working with health officials to address the residents’ needs.”
Footage of the encounter posted by Ginsberg-Jaeckle shows Delgado speaking up as Emanuel was about to begin the meeting when Ginsberg-Jaeckle asks, “We just have one question: why did you close her clinic, her mental health clinic?”
Several attendees can be heard groaning, and an Emanuel staffer tells Delgado, “This isn’t the place,” but Emanuel allowed her to speak.
Delgado subsequently told the mayor that both she and her younger son have sought mental health treatment since her other son was shot and killed. But the clinic that was helping them was closed down, forcing them to go to another facility, a 90-minute trip each way on two bus lines. Six of the city’s 12 clinics were closed down in 2012, a move Emanuel said at the time would shave $3 million from the city’s budget.
“I would like to know if you’re gonna open our clinic up because we are dying out here,” Delgado told Emanuel.
Ginsberg-Jaeckle told The Daily Beast that their confrontation with the mayor was the culmination of years’ worth of silence from his office on the issue.
“We delivered 10,000 letters to the mayor’s office in October 2012. They didn’t respond. So, we started sending one email a week. No response. We held forums and protests. The day before a vote on the budget we did a sit-in outside the mayor’s office, and they forced us out by cutting off any access bathrooms,” he said. “I could go play by play, but long story short we could not get through to this man. Finally, the extreme we reached was crashing his events.”
The video shows one of Emanuel’s staffers ordering Ginsberg-Jaeckle to be removed, and a police officer can be seen approaching them. But Emanuel waves the officer off, before responding.
Emanuel then discusses neighborhood revitalization projects before Delgado cuts him off, asking, “My question was about us dying in the streets. What are you gonna do about it?”
As Delgado presses him, Emanuel seemingly stops another officer from approaching her. The video cuts off as he discusses provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
The Huffington Post reported that, according to Delgado, both she and Ginsberg-Jaeckle were approached on Thursday by local officials offering to help.
“This isn’t just about me,” she said. “I’m not going to accept his offer. This is about the whole city. We need [mental health services] everywhere — not just the six that he closed.”
Watch footage from the meeting, as posted by Stop Chicago on Thursday, below.