Justice for Laquan McDonald

Chicago protests block streets, shops

As we go to print, Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy, has been fired, Dec. 1, due to mass anger over the police murder of 17-year-old, Laquan McDonald in Oct. 2014.  The police video of the murder was just released to the public 15 months later. To add insult to injury, the officer charged with McDonald’s murder, is out on bond.  Follow workers.org for more updates. 



Chicago, Nov. 30 – Despite driving rain and cold, thousands of protesters marched on Friday, Nov. 27, closing off Chicago’s posh Michigan Avenue shops to shopping, and demanding the resignation of the police chief, the state’s attorney and the mayor.  

Protesters then linked arms, blocking entrances to the Water Tower Place Mall and luxury stores like Tiffany’s, Saks and  Neiman Marcus. The Apple Store closed for five hours. A huge Black Lives Matter banner sprawled across the entrance to Victoria’s Secret.

This mass message of anger and determination followed the city’s release of a dash-cam video showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s brutal murder. McDonald was shot 16 times, as he lay on the street, by police officer Jason Van Dyke last October. The video exposed the lies of the state’s attorney and the Fraternal Order of Police claiming McDonald had lunged at police.  

As demonstrators blocked the entrances to the stores they chanted, “16 shots! 15 months!” to highlight the brutal killing and the time lapse before Van Dyke was charged with murder.  

One police witness even stated that while McDonald lay on the ground, clearly dead, he had to stop Van Dyke from reloading and continuing to shoot. Van Dyke has a history of 18 complaints filed against him of overt racism and brutality, but these complaints never led to action.

The mayor’s role

Following a closely contested election last April, the City Council quietly settled with McDonald’s family for $5 million. In September, the Chicago Tribune filed a lawsuit alleging that Mayor Rahm Emanuel “violated state open records laws by refusing to release communications about city business conducted through private emails and text messages.” The Tribune accused the mayor’s office of “a pattern of noncompliance, partial compliance, delay and obfuscation” in handling the public’s requests to see records.  

Meanwhile, for the past 400 days, Van Dyke was working a desk job and receiving full pay. But an investigative reporter forced the public release of the video for Nov. 24 under court order. Anticipating the community’s reaction to the video, Van Dyke was arrested on Nov. 23 and charged with murder. Although city officials claimed they were outraged at the injustice and police violence the tape showed, they had sat on it for over a year.

For two nights following the video’s release, Black Lives Matter and allies led street protests that shut down major intersections downtown. Following a peaceful rally, police jumped one of the leaders, Malcolm London, an internationally known poet, artist and education justice activist among Chicago youth. London, who had just been speaking at the rally, was charged with a felony for allegedly throwing a smoke bomb. This was clearly the act of provocateurs.

London spent a night in Cook County Jail. Hundreds of supporters, including this reporter, packed the street and courtroom in protest. In a true people’s victory, the charges were dropped and London was released. Five others were arrested on minor charges.

Broad coalition

The Nov. 27 march was called by a coalition of Chicago organizations, including Black Lives Matter, Rainbow Push, the Chicago Alliance Against and War and Racism, the Chicago Teachers Union and the Rev. Michael Pfleger from St. Sabina Church, a staunch ally of community anti-racist struggles.

The Black Caucus of the City Council is calling for a vote of no confidence against police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who claims he won’t resign and that Emanuel supports him. Local NAACP chapters joined the call for a federal investigation into the police department.  The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman Bobby Rush and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis are seeking  a U.S. Justice Department inquiry into the police’s handling of the McDonald shooting.  

A spokeswoman for the Black Youth Project says their organization is also demanding a defunding of the police department, protesting the priorities shown by having 40 percent of the city budget fund the cops while over 50 schools in Chicago have closed.

Laquan McDonald’s murder was no isolated incident. Chicago is where John Burge and his police accomplices tortured young Black men for decades with impunity. Van Dyke is the first Chicago officer in nearly 35 years to be charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty shooting, according to the Chicago Tribune. (Nov. 30)

As of July, Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority had investigated 400 fatal and nonfatal shootings by police since 2007, according to a Better Government Association analysis, but found only one unjustified. The same report found that from 2010 to 2014, Chicago police fatally shot 70 people, nearly all male and mostly Black, the most among large U.S. city police departments.

New era of struggle

The Black Lives Matter movement and the upsurge on college campuses demanding an end to institutionalized racism have signaled a new era of struggle. Black youth are in the vanguard.   

The U.S. ruling class and the police state stay in power through divide-and-conquer tactics. Racism, including renewed anti-immigrant propaganda, is their greatest tool. But they can no longer isolate the Black community.  

In the Nov. 27 Chicago march were allies who see the struggle against racism and police brutality as the cutting edge in building a U.S. working-class movement. Chicago teachers wore buttons saying, “Jail the bankers, not my students.” There was a group from CORE, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators.  

Another contingent marched behind a banner, “Arabs against racist violence.” Activists blocking the Banana Republic store held banners in English and Spanish saying “Pilson, a Mexican Chicago neighborhood, stands with McDonald.”

As the capitalist crisis affects more and more youth and workers, people are fighting back in unity.  Everyone chanted demands for jobs and schools not jails and police murder. They chanted in a circle of unity, led by Black youth: “We will love each other! We will protect each other! It is our duty to fight for each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

This unity is what it will take to turn this system around, to meet the needs of the many, not just profits for the few.