Obama’s Proposed Presidential Library Draws Protests in Chicago


Supporters of former President Barack Obama’s proposed presidential library and museum were joined by protesters as a key city commission met Thursday to determine whether to grant approval for construction to begin.

On a patch of sidewalk outside of City Hall, a group in blue T-shirts and pins emblazoned with the Obama Presidential Center logo chanted, “yes we can” and urged drivers to honk in support of the proposed library, while protests nearby called for a formal promise from the city and the foundation that South Siders will not be hurt by the project.

Francis Banks, 77, a resident of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, was among the protesters. “We want the library, of course we do,” she said. “But we want people in the community to benefit. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

It was a fitting, if ironic, tribute to the former community organizer from Chicago’s South Side, who used his farewell address in his hometown to challenge his supporters to stay involved in organizing in their communities and the country as a whole.

After months of community engagement, the lead up to the commission meeting exposed some of the tensions that have been boiling over as details of the Center have been released. Just this week, a community group filed a federal lawsuit to stop the project from going forward. (A supporter of the project and local developer, who himself drew sharp criticism from people in the crowd, compared the lawsuit to a lynching.)

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