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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Emmanuel Camarillo

Rev. Al Sharpton joins Brandon Johnson at get-out-the-vote rally in West Garfield Park

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at a voter turnout rally at New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church on March 26, 2023. He exhorted those gathered to honor the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and turn out to vote in the April 4 election, on the anniversary of King’s 1968 assassination. (Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times)

Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson and civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton attended a rally in West Garfield Park to boost voter turnout in the April 4 citywide runoff election.

Sharpton stopped just short of endorsing Johnson, but he did tell the hundreds gathered at New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church to note which candidate joined them at the rally.

“Let the record show who showed up,” Sharpton said to loud cheers from the crowd.

Organizers called the event “nonpartisan” and said both Johnson and his opponent, Paul Vallas, had been invited to attend. However, several attendees were holding signs reading “Brandon Johnson 4 Mayor.”

The Reverend Marshall Hatch, pastor of the church, has endorsed Johnson. 

The rally was sparked by low voter turnout in last month’s primary election, particularly among those in the Black community, said organizers Leaders Network Chicago.

Speakers urged voters to cast their ballot by April 4 to honor the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated on that date in 1968.

“I am so deeply humbled and very much honored to be part of a long tradition of those who have come before us,” Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson said. The event was billed as nonpartisan, and Paul Vallas did not attend. (Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times)

“We are going to on April 4 show that Dr. King didn’t die for nothing,” Sharpton said. “You killed the dreamer, but you didn’t kill the dream. It’s time for us on April 4 to show that we are the children of those that shed blood to give us the right to vote.”

Sharpton said voting is important because “we are in a country that you have people that are literally storming the U.S. Capitol, that are literally saying we need to cancel Social Security, that are literally saying that police can do whatever they want and shouldn’t be held accountable.”

Sharpton said voters had an opportunity to “resurrect” Chicago in this election and make history again like they did when Harold Washington was elected mayor in 1983.

“The question is not what candidate are you for, it’s what do you stand for? And whether or not what you stand for is what’s right, and what you stand for will be a light for this nation,” Sharpton said. “I wanted to come by and challenge Chicago, have you forgotten who you are? If you can do it in ’83 what can you do in 2023?”

Johnson told the crowd: “I am so deeply humbled and very much honored to be part of a long tradition of those who have come before us. ... The city of Chicago is prepared and ready to be an example for the rest of the world.”

Supporters of Paul Vallas demonstrate across the street from New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, where Brandon Johnson and the Rev. Al Sharpton attended a get-out-the-vote rally. (Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times)

During the rally, a handful of demonstrators holding pro-Vallas signs gathered on the sidewalk across the street from the church. They accused Johnson of spreading false information about Vallas to hurt his standing in the Black community.

Johnson addressed those accusations in his speech at the rally. “They’ve made it about race. When you have someone like my opponent that doesn’t believe that Black children can handle Black history, he made it about race,” Johnson said.

Early voting in the April 4 election is underway.

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