On September 5, a day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would not seek re-election, a coalition of Chicago activist organizations rallied outside the Cook County Courthouse at 26th and California. The organizations coalesced in the middle of the street –– on a gated median strip –– with clear demands in mind: justice for Laquan McDonald and a conviction of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
“16 Shots and A Coverup!” has been a constant refrain in many protests and since the 2015 release of the Laquan McDonald video. On Wednesday, organizations such as Good Kid Mad City (GKMC), Black Lives Matter Chicago (BLMCHI), the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), the National Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression, Action Now, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), and several others showed up at the courthouse. Multiple Facebook event pages for the day of action indicated that hundreds were interested.
The demonstration – barricaded by CPD officers and State troopers on the perimeter – began at 8 am. Onlookers slowly walked by gazing at the signs calling for Van Dyke’s conviction and listening to various speakers.
“We don’t take Laquan’s death lightly,” a determined William Calloway, 29, said to a crowd of 100 with his eyes directed toward the Cook County courthouse. “We don’t take injustice lightly. It’s important that we occupy this space.”
Coalition representatives, activists, and families impacted by police violence all took the stage under a beating sun to rally their audience in remembrance of Laquan McDonald and to remind all that justice has not been served. “We need accountability and justice for our people killed by police,” says Tiffany Boxley, mother of the deceased Joshua Beal. Beal was the 25-year-old Black man from Indianapolis who was killed in a police-involved shooting in Mt. Greenwood two years ago. “Hopefully justice will be served for Laquan McDonald in the courtroom, and I will be standing here next receiving justice for my son.”
A conviction would mean the first time in Chicago’s history that a White police officer serves a prison bid for murdering a Black person.
With this historical precedent hovering over the trial, many celebrated Chicagoans made their appearance to stand in solidarity with a radical movement.
FM Supreme, rapper and long-time peace activist, performed early in the rally and stressed the importance of community. Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, greeted many individuals and delivered inspirational words. Other notables included: Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green, mayoral candidate Dr. Amara Enyia, activist Jedidiah Brown, and activist Demetrius Nash.
A Response to Mayor
“If yesterday proves anything, it’s that Laquan McDonald rests in power,” Ramirez-Rosa said, referring to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement not to run for a third term.
“Laquan McDonald should get justice and will get justice because of people like you,” Ramirez-Rosa continued. “But let’s be clear, this fight goes so far beyond one court case. It goes so far beyond one police officer. This fight is about changing the system. … We know you can change the skin of the judge, you can change the look of the police officer, you can get a new mayor, but you can still have a racist system.”
In addition to Ald. Ramirez-Rosa, Maria Hernandez aimed criticism at the mayor.
“I hear Rahm Emanuel is not running for mayor,” Hernandez coyly remarked. “Well, all that means is that he will be making ‘good-bye’ policies. Now is not the time to celebrate.”
Many believe that the mayor’s decision to not seek reelection is a direct result of constant protests for his resignation and the impending public backlash he faces as the Van Dyke trial continues. For more than a year, Chicago officials suspended the criminal process and could have delayed prosecution of Van Dyke indefinitely, until a state court forced the released of the Laquan McDonald footage. As those delays occurred, Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned for reelection.
“The mission isn’t accomplished yet,” Ja’Mal Green said. Green is a renown activist known for literally bringing protests to the mayor’s front door. As a mayoral candidate, he still hopes to see his initial demands met. “Now that Rahm Emanuel is gone, we must get Jason Van Dyke convicted. Nothing changes.”
Dr. Amara Enyia, another mayoral hopeful, talked with community organizers and expressed that her presence at the rally is a requirement given the calls the for police accountability.
“Today, for me, is a culmination of years of organization work and standing in solidarity with those doing the groundwork.”
On Monday, September 10, organizers held a vigil for McDonald as the jury selection continued. At press time, the first five jurors had been selected—so far none are Black. Organizers guarantee more actions throughout the length of the trial.