Huffpost Chicago

Jane Byrne Cabrini-Green Easter: A Look Back At A Mayor's 1981 PR Fail That Ended In Shame (VIDEO)

Posted: Updated:

Chicago may be the city of progress, but vintage video from a 1981 Easter scene shows even in the Windy City, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 1981, the city's first female mayor Jane Byrne was grappling with a city divided by race, hurting from violence and fed up with her PR tricks. Among the biggest crises of the time was the city's failed public housing policies, notoriously symbolized by the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project on the Near North Side (ultimately demolished in 2011).

That year, Byrne held a disastrous Easter celebration held at the housing project which had come to symbolize crime, urban blight and the racial and classist divide within the city. Giving speeches and blessings from a stage decked with Easter lilies, Byrne tried to rouse the crowd and note the many amusements that had been set up for the day — a carousel, ferris wheel and more— while neighbors picketed nearby and decried the event as a stunt.

Tom Weinberg and Tom Finerty caught the whole thing on film, according to the Chicago Reader, noting the neighbor's demonstrations ended in a "disturbing example of police brutality."

In the spring of '81, Byrne and her husband, Jay McMullen, famously moved into a fourth-floor apartment in the Cabrini building at 1160 N. Sedgwick St. — and lasted a paltry three weeks before moving out.

Much like Byrne did in the late seventies to early eighties, today Chicago's mayor faces a troubling crime problem, charges of racism, the lingering ghosts of the police departments brutal past, and of course, endless PR spin.

In addition to their social and political woes, Emanuel and Byrne share another thing in common: love of strict gun laws. The city's handgun ban was approved under Byrne during her penultimate year as mayor in 1982.

Around the Web

Easter in Cabrini: Jane Byrne's 1981 PR disaster | Bleader

Jane Byrne's Easter at Cabrini Green, 1981 - YouTube

Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne's Easter Celebration in Cabrini Green ...

[Jane Byrne's Easter at Cabrini raw #1] » Media Burn Archive

Easter in Cabrini: Jane Byrne's 1981 PR disaster