The release of graphic footage showing the police shooting that resulted in the death of Laquan McDonald has sparked substantial protests in the streets of Chicago, and a call for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy, and Cook County’s State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
As reported previously by People’s World, Laquan McDonald was a young African-American man, who was fatally shot 16 times on Oct. 14, 2014 by white officer Jason Van Dyke. On Nov. 19 of this year a Cook County judge ruled that the Chicago Police Department had to make the dashboard video public no later than Nov. 25.
On Tuesday, Nov. 24 the video was finally released, a full year after McDonald’s death. That same day hundreds of protestors took to the streets to demand justice for McDonald. Demonstrators marched between Roosevelt and State to block traffic, while chanting “16 shots.” This was in reference to the number of times McDonald was reportedly struck by Van Dyke’s bullets. The reportedly nine-hour protest resulted in five arrests.
By Wednesday morning of last week activists and their supporters had taken the call for justice to social media, where the hashtag #ResignRahm began trending. Mayor Emanuel, along with Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy, and Cook County’s State’s Attorney Anita Alvareza have come under intense scrutiny due to the 13 months it took to file charges against the officer and the delayed release of the video to the public.
A twitter user, Sarah Chambers, posted, “When Rahm tells us there’s no [money] for special-ed, but there’s millions for settlements to try to cover up murders of black kids #ResignRahm.” Chambers’ tweet is refers to the $5 million settlement with the McDonald family back in April before the family even filed a lawsuit.
Another Twitter user, Michelle Favia noted, “Chicagoans deserve better than Emanuel, McCarthy, Alvarez. #ResignRahm.”
On Wednesday the City Council’s Black Caucus held a press conference in which they called for more accountability in city government. Although the caucus did not call for the resignation of Mayor Emanuel, they did call for, the second time in recent weeks, the resignation of Police Superintendent McCarthy. Alderman Howard Brookins said at the press conference, “We as a city have to demand better of our elected officials who are charged with protecting us all equally. It is no excuse for this type of behavior.”
What has also come to light is a possible video from a local Burger King located in the area where McDonald was killed. Jay Darshane, a district manager for the fast-food chain, has come forward stating that several police officers entered the restaurant located just yards from the scene, demanding to view the restaurant’s password-protected surveillance video.
Darshane stated that after the officers left, there were at least 86 minutes of footage missing from the surveillance video. Darshane, who explained to the Chicago Tribune that he actually testified about the missing footage before a federal grand jury earlier this year, said, “I was just trying to help the police with their investigation. I didn’t know they were going to delete it.”
State Attorney Anita Alvarez countered this statement at a recent press conference saying, “We have looked at those videos and … it doesn’t appear that it’s been tampered with.”
On Nov. 27, Black Friday, hundreds of demonstrators marched, stopping traffic on Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue. The demonstrators, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, declared that the mayor, police commissioner, and prosecutor must step down. They also demanded a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department. The protesters locked arms outside the doors of major retailers such as Apple, Tiffany & Co., and Neiman Marcus preventing shoppers from entering. The chants of the demonstrators included “Stop the cover-up!” and “16 shots! 16 shots!”
Van Dyke, the officer who shot McDonald, turned himself into authorities last week. Van Dyke will be charged with first-degree murder in connection to the shooting death. Van Dyke had been on paid leave since McDonald’s death, but has since been fired from the Chicago police department.
Since his arrest new information has surfaced regarding previous complaints of misconduct against the former officer. As reported by CNN, in connection with Citizens Police Data Project, Van Dyke had a history of complaints before he gunned down McDonald. The allegations involved use of excessive force, and one complaint alleges he used a racial slur.
A jury previously awarded a Chicago man $350,000 after determining Van Dyke employed excessive force during a traffic stop. If Van Dyke is convicted of first degree murder in the McDonald case he could face a minimum of 20 years in prison. This case would mark the first time in 35 years that a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality.
As the investigation continues leaders in the pursuit of justice say that protests and demonstrations will continue. As Charlene Carruthers, National Director of the Black Youth Project 100, stated in a recent interview with Democracy Now, “At a time when there is such profound distrust and alienation from the police in the neighborhoods most affected, and such a lack of confidence – such a crisis of legitimacy for the institutions of criminal justice, this is one of the things within the power of the city to do, to begin to restore a degree of confidence, to begin to restore a degree of trust. But it has to start … Laquan McDonald has now joined Michael Brown and a number of other names as our kind of shorthand for fundamental defining of structural issues in American life.”
Photo: Protest on Michigan Avenue, Chicago. Michelle Zacarias/PW