The struggle in the streets has impacted the electoral arena in Democratic primary races for prosecutor in counties where Chicago and Cleveland are located. Incumbents were voted out of office on March 15. These cities were the scenes of community outrage and protests against racist police killings in 2014 — of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, both African Americans.
It took Anita Alvarez, state’s attorney of Cook County, Ill., 13 months to indict the officer who fired the 16 shots that killed McDonald, despite a police dashcam video that clearly implicated him. Only after a judge ordered the video released — in response to journalists’ legal actions — did Alvarez indict the officer for murder.
In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor Tim McGinty had instructed a grand jury not to indict the officer who mercilessly shot Rice, a child playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland public park. Another officer then brutally tackled Rice’s 14-year-old sister, who had come to her brother’s aid.
Both prosecutors were ousted in the primaries. The Black Lives Matter movement, the youths’ families and their allies accused them of collaborating with the police and abetting the cover-ups of these killings. Demonstration after demonstration demanded they step down — and the culpable police officers be charged, convicted and jailed.
While confined to the electoral arena, these votes show the growing strength of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is determined to challenge government officials and police when Black people are senselessly gunned down by racist police.