Spike Lee: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a "Bully"

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Spike Lee

"I said, 'Mayor, Your Honor, you’re gonna be on the wrong side of history,' " the iconic filmmaker says of the dispute over his upcoming feature, 'Chi-Raq.'

Spike Lee and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel do not get along. 

In a recent interview with Chicago magazine, the director of the upcoming Amazon Studios film Chi-Raq said Emanuel — who does not like the title or content of the film — "tried to paint me like the villain." 

"I’m not the bad guy, but that’s how he was trying to portray it. Do I have the guns? Am I the one pulling the trigger? To be honest, he’s a bully," Lee told the magazine's Bryan Smith. "My tactic with the mayor — any bully — is to come out swinging. I said, 'Mayor, Your Honor, you’re gonna be on the wrong side of history.' "

Calling Chicago the "most segregated big city in America," Lee said the mayor does not want the public to see the violence of the city, especially on the South Side, because it's happening "on his watch." 

"We started shooting Chi-Raq June 1. We finished July 9. During that time, 331 people got wounded, 65 murdered," Lee said to highlight his point. "New York City has three times the population of Chicago; Chicago has more homicides than New York City."

Chi-Raq is an update of the classical Greek play Lysistrata and stars Teyonah Parris as a woman who protests the city's black-on-black gun violence. The film also features Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson.

Production of the film, due out in December, hit several snags while shooting in Chicago, which Lee believes Emanuel helped create, including the introduction of a resolution that would have made the production ineligible for state tax refunds, he told the magazine.

"A lot of stuff he might not have done directly, but I see [Emanuel's] fingerprints," Lee said. 

While filming, there was a "perception" that residents did not want Lee making his film, he said. 

"But everywhere I went — North Side, West Side, South Side, black people, white people — I got nothing but love our entire time here. Love," Lee said. 

Even after completing his film, Lee said he still did not fully "comprehend" the gang violence of Chicago. 

"See, there were gangs growing up in New York, in Brooklyn. But the gang culture here? [Whistles.] It’s on another level here," Lee said. "Another level."

A request for comment from Emanuel's office was not returned. 

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