Protests for justice in Laquan McDonald case continue Saturday

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Protests for justice in Laquan McDonald case continue Saturday

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Only a few blocks away from Michigan Avenue, where protesters blocked stores and streets on Black Friday, a modest crowd of protesters gathered at State Street and Jackson Avenue continuing to chant for justice Saturday.

Members of the Chicago chapter of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, SMIN, called for the indictment of every police officer on the scene of Laquan McDonald’s shooting and others they say are implicit in the crime, including Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The protest is one of many that have been conducted since the release of dash cam footage showing the death of McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot 16 times by Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer. Since the release of the video, those at SMIN, and at other organizations around the city, have called for, and taken part in, demonstrations against a system they believe to be just as guilty as Van Dyke.

“Only one cop has been indicted, but there were many cops on the scene. They should all be charged; the whole administration in this city was involved in covering this up,” Marge Parsons, a protester who spoke about what compelled her to protest, said. “There’s been 1000 police murders this year. Police murders have to stop. McCarthy’s resignation is a testament to the power of the people, but it’s much bigger than that.”

Van Dyke had a history of complaints against him before he killed McDonald, including accusations for the use of racial epithets, excessive force and drawing his gun unnecessarily, according to data from the Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR), which is part of the Chicago Police Department.

Though no federal organization claims to keep track of how many officer-involved shootings there have been this year, The Counted, a branch of the Guardian, is keeping track. So far this year, there have been 1,048 people killed by police officers. Of that number, 266 of them, or roughly 25 percent, are black.

News of another police-involved shooting, the victim Ronald “Ronnieman” Johnson, has surfaced, since the news of McDonald’s death began to circulate to the public, and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired. Mayor Emanuel, in a move that some news organizations took as an attempt to scramble for time, announced a new task force, which will “review the system of accountability, oversight and training that is currently in place for Chicago’s police officers.”

That announcement won’t stop the demonstrations and the gatherings for justice from continuing, however.

“This is a nationwide movement to stop these murders,” Jessie Davis, the Chicago contact for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, said. “All the people involved need to be held accountable. The people who knew what that video showed need to be prosecuted because they are accessories in denying justice to these families.”

The anger comes, in part, because the video was released 400 days after the shooting. In Johnson’s case, he was killed the day before and his family, as well as other Chicagoans, are still awaiting release of the footage.

Though Chicago is currently in the limelight, police-involved shootings have been a topic of discussion since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, but more recently since the 2014 death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Police have come under more scrutiny.

“The old adage that ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ has not lost any of its veracity.  And thus, we need to do is keep this police power in check and have working accountability measures in place,” Brigitt Keller, executive director of the National Police Accountability Project, said. “The most important thing that needs to happen is a discussion about the purpose of policing and what we as a society want policing and the entire criminal justice system to look like.  This is a major undertaking and, in my opinion, nothing will really change unless we address this fundamental question.  None of these measures will work in isolation, we need a multi-prong approach.”

That multi-prong approach includes discussion and internal disciplinary measures, as well as criminal prosecution for those at the administrative level, according to Keller, coupled with citizens speaking out or demonstrating and protesting to show officials that they want a change in their society. People everywhere doing what they can, according to Davis, can help change the system. Even if that means putting signs in windows voicing support for systemic change, or gathering people together for a candlelight vigil, any show of support can go a long way.

“You can go to every city and see the same things happening. These are not statistics – they are people,” Davis said. “This isn’t the society we want to live in. People should manifest in any way they can to demand an end to police murders.”