Raucous crowds flood Chicago City Council, shut down meeting over sanctuary city issue

There was chaos at City Hall on Tuesday as protesters took over a meeting about Chicago's status as a sanctuary city. They're angry about efforts to stop a referendum that would allow Chicagoans to decide whether to welcome migrants.

The raucous meeting of the City Council Rules Committee spun out of control as protesters shouted down aldermen during debate about Chicago's status as a sanctuary city.

"Do you as a resident of the City of Chicago believe that we should remain a sanctuary city?" asked 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano. The crowd responded with boos and catcalls.

The mostly African-American crowd jammed the City Council gallery, with hundreds more downstairs on the first floor held back by officers with bicycles. They're angry the city is spending tens of millions of dollars to shelter migrants, money they say should be going to help Chicagoans in poor neighborhoods.

"We're spending a lot of money. We're spending a lot of money every single day," said 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale. "I think up to $40 million a month, ladies and gentlemen. We're up to $40 million dollars a month."

Sparking the crowd's anger were efforts by Mayor Brandon Johnson's former floor leader, 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, to derail a special meeting last week held to discuss the sanctuary city referendum. Ramirez-Rosa tried to prevent a quorum, at one point physically blocking veteran Alderwoman Emma Mitts from entering the chamber.

Today's protesters responded by creating their own chaos, refusing to leave the council chamber until the meeting was eventually suspended.

"In all my years, I haven't seen anything like this," said 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez. "But I've also never seen such a concerted effort to ignore the will of the people."

Mayor Johnson acknowledged the anger and division over the sanctuary city issue.

"Though there are circumstances that have created a level of tension that has unfortunately led to some level of stratification, that the body displayed today that we can reconcile," Johnson said.

Tuesday's suspended Rules Committee meeting will pick up on Thursday with more debate over the sanctuary city referendum.