Chicago Tribune Silent on Illegal Immigration Activist's History

On the Chicago Tribune's front page today is the story of an illegal immigrant who's taken refuge in a Chicago church to avoid deportation. The headline is "Act of faith, defiance" and the article includes a color photo of the woman and her son. Yesterday's Tribune coverage on the event noted: "The church's pastor, the Rev. Walter Coleman, said his congregation decided to offer Arellano refuge after praying about her plight.. . . 'She represents the voice of the undocumented, and we think it's our obligation, our responsibility, to make a stage for that voice to be heard,' he said."

Walter Coleman? Could that be Walter "Slim" Coleman, a longtime left wing activist? Yes, it is.

And what's interesting is the Tribune makes no mention of the Reverend's extensive background, much of it documented by the Tribune over the years.

A self-described community organizer, Slim was on the board of a group getting Federal money back in the 70s to provide free lunches to hundreds of poor children each day. Tribune writer Jeff Lyon reported in August of 1979 that an investigation disclosed the real participation was about 70 children a day.

This experience no doubt helped Coleman in becoming a key adviser to Chicago's Mayor Harold Washington. A Tribune piece in August of 1984 carried the charges of an alderman that Chicago "agreed to give $70,000 to a health clinic operated by the Heart of Uptown Coalition headed by Slim Coleman, a Washington supporter."

The following year Slim, then identifying himself as a journalist, was provoked by a Washington opponent and leaped to the City Council floor screaming "I'm going to get you" at the alderman. The Tribune's Robert Davis reported in the June 14, 1985 edition: "Published reports have said the mayor often seeks Coleman’s advice, particularly on dispensing federal funds for neighborhood and community development. There also have been published reports that Coleman, after years of criticizing the political use of government money, has told community organization leaders that to dip into the federal trough, they would have to do political things like picket the homes (of Washington's opponents.)"

According to Tribune columnists Kathy O'Malley and Hanke Gratteau in December of 1986: "Leave it to Slim Coleman to throw the first below-the-belt punch of Campaign '87. The Uptown activist, who uses his community newspaper to defend his good chum Mayor Harold Washington, is spreading the word that he's sitting on a dossier of photos, a sort of `"This is Your Life`" for (another) mayoral hopeful."

After Mayor Washington's death, the Tribune gave editorial advice to his successor: "People like Slim Coleman and Ald. Helen Shiller were making their influence felt during Mr. Washington`s second term; the new mayor should sweep them out of City Hall's fifth floor and purge city policy of their loony leftist ideas."

In 1990 the newspaper reported on the first Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference. Wrote author Jessica Seigel: "'Everyone is dissolving,' said Uptown activist Slim Coleman at the Chicago conference Sunday. 'Every time I meet someone, they’re no longer a Marxist-Leninist this or that.'"

In January of 1991, the Tribune covered an antiwar demonstration and noted the presence of Coleman, identified as "a longtime advocate of affordable housing and other causes."

2004 found Slim condemning the abuse at Abu Ghraib and the Tribune reported: "Preaching at St. Adalberto United Methodist Church, a Hispanic storefront parish on Chicago's South Side, Rev. Walter 'Slim' Coleman told his small congregation that the number of photographs--estimated at 1,500--shows the abuse was a policy, not an aberration in the war. 'Rumsfeld said it was just a few rotten apples, not the policy of the government,' Coleman said in a fire-and-brimstone sermon."

The Most Reverend Coleman has quite a record, one that the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets should make some mention of in reporting his current activities. They don't need to provide extensive details, but they should give their audience a clue.