Activists respond to the Jason Van Dyke verdict. (Photo by Sebastián Hidalgo)
If you have lived in Chicago for at least several years, images of community resistance, police, and mainstream media should permeate your mind when you hear the phrase “16 shots.” Jason Van Dyke, a former Chicago police officer, is now a convicted murderer after shooting 16 fatal shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014. Dashcam footage of the incident triggered protests that resulted in a Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago Police Department, voters ousting then-States Attorney Anita Alvarez, and the firing of former CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who is now running for mayor.
On Oct. 5, 2018, when millions witnessed the jury reading Van Dyke’s verdict, many who’ve been fighting for Laquan since 2014 felt a broad range of emotions. The Chicago Defender reached out to some of the Black frontline activists who chanted “Justice for Laquan” nearly four years ago and continued their fight into this moment; we wanted to get their perspective on the outcome.
Maria Hernandez, Black Lives Matter Chicago Organizer
Hernandez co-organized community response to the verdict and is also an active member of the #NoCopAcademy Campaign.
It is clear this was 1st-degree murder as Black boys are not scary enough to constitute a “mitigating factor;” but this is a historic victory (Van Dyke was convicted of 2nd-degree murder). I hope it leads to a new investigation of the Ronald Johnson murder and cover up days before Laquan was killed, 4 years ago next week. We need every case reopened – and CPAC (Civilian Police Accountability Council) signed into law – if we ever hope to address public safety in a real way.
Malcolm London, former BYP 100 (Black Youth Project 100) Chicago Co-Chair; London was arrested protesting on the second night after the McDonald video dropped.
This doesn’t bring back Laquan. This doesn’t bring back Rekia (Boyd, who was killed by an off-duty cop in 2012). This conviction is gratifying but we have to remember this is only the result of organizing and we cannot let up.
Kirah Moe, Activist
Kirah participated in direct actions, especially road blockades on Lake Shore Drive to raise awareness of police brutality and political corruption.
We asked for a murder conviction and received it. A Chicago police officer is now a convicted murderer. The charges may not have resulted in full satisfaction, but our fight was not in vain. Chicago made history. Van Dyke is going to prison and Laquan lives through all of us affected by his death. Next are the aldermen and the mayor. The community has to get out and vote. The people united can never be defeated.
Stevenson served in the military and has stood side-by-side with Mayoral Candidate Ja’Mal Green in protest at the mayor’s front door.
This is a big step in the right direction. Chicago made history. This will make officers all over the United States think twice before taking a life. Now we wait for the sentencing, which is another hurdle to get past.
Hampton is a former BYP100 Chicago Chapter Co-Chair and among the first to march in the streets when the McDonald footage dropped.
Officer Jason Van Dyke murdered Laquan McDonald in 2014 and shot him 16 times. He was guilty in 2014, I don’t need affirmation from Illinois courts 4 years later to know that. I’m angry that Laquan McDonald’s family had to suffer for 4 years, reliving the trauma of their teenage loved one being gunned down in a rage. They should not have had to witness the FOP laugh in their faces by hiring Van Dyke after his suspension from CPD, and even now after the verdict, hearing the FOP President’s statement threatening and calling people they are supposed to be protecting “perpetrators.” A second-degree charge is a spit in the face, but even a first-degree charge is not true accountability when it won’t bring back all the Black people who have been killed by police, free others from prison, or erase Scarlett letter convictions.
Jason Van Dyke is one police officer who deserves all the bad things coming to him and then some, but he is a scapegoat for an entire system of lawmakers, policy analysts, judges, and officers who constantly get away with killing, hurting, and traumatizing Black people.
David “Iggy Flow” Rucker, Revolutionary/Organizer
Rucker is a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
When the verdict came that Jason Van Dyke had been convicted of all counts except for the misconduct, my first thought was that it isn’t over and there’s more to be done. If it has to take our children to fight the fight – that we left – with years and years to come, then so be it.
All power to the revolution!
Jedidiah Brown, Founder of the Young Leaders Alliance
The self-described “Chicago Freedom Fighter” from South Shore had a change of heart about the mayor after seeing organizations respond to the Laquan’s video. Since then, Brown has participated in countless marches and press conferences demanding peace.
Every generation has seen something once thought impossible. I’m honored to be living in this one, where a demonized Black child gets justice after being slaughtered by a hateful White policeman. The right message has been sent to the law enforcement community concerning accountability. As we now press to finalize justice in the city council and the next two elections, I’m eager to see the healing begin in my community. I honor William Calloway and Brandon Smith for not looking the other way because the cover-up wouldn’t have ever become a conviction without them.
LaCreisha Birts, Activist/Organizer
Birts was a member of BYP 100 and the CAARPR (Chicago Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression) in 2015. Birts has been fighting for community control of the police.
While I’m grateful that Van Dyke was convicted, I do not feel safe or reassured by the verdict. If Van Dyke who shot Laquan SIXTEEN times couldn’t be charged and convicted with first-degree murder, what precedent does this set for other cops who murder civilians?
Ja’Mal Green, Mayoral Candidate and CEO of Majostee All-Stars.
Green appeared on many mainstream news outlets and lead actions at City Hall, the Taste of Chicago, and in front of Emanuel’s home in Ravenswood.
The Van Dyke verdict proves that ordinary citizens are tired of people we trust with power abusing their positions. This represents a shift in the landscape of Chicago where people who were previously untouchable will now be held accountable for their actions including every politician involved. It is now up to the judge to make sure he sends a message to any other rogue cops that Black lives matter, not just Blue ones.”
Joan Fadayiro, Co-founder, Cooperation for Liberation Study & Working Group
Fadayiro hit the streets for Laquan and organized community meetings after the dash cam video was released. She was an active participant in the #ByeAnita direct actions.
First, I want to lift up Laquan McDonald and his loved ones, family and friends. Although through heinous circumstances, Laquan has been able to put his family in a better position financially–which for poor, Black people in this city, this country, that matters. Laquan put this city in a better place–primarily for young, Black men struggling to lead full lives in the face of state violence. We are forever grateful!
Personally, I have a hard time celebrating until the sentencing. What this verdict means seems unclear until then. However, the verdict does feel like a victory for Black people and anyone who believes in the right of Black people to live freely.
Everyone, stood up for this–Black folks and allies, youth and elders. Organizers centering young, Black women, femmes and queer folks took the lead and sacrificed it all. It’s important to remember what this moment cost us–as every victory for Black people and oppressed people around the world does. We lost one of the most powerful youth organizations in this city–Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY). Many youth organizers have faced financial insecurity, isolation and mental and physical complications. And many have lost hope along the way. Let us remember this and do what we can to heal ourselves and our community with love and integrity.
Lamon Reccord, Activist and Founder of Bringing Home America
In 2015, Reccord teamed with Ja’Mal Green and others to put pressure on Rahm Emanuel. There are viral videos and pictures where Reccord stares down police.
There is no #JusticeForLaquan until Rahm Emanuel, Anita Alvarez, Garry McCarthy and every officer who lied is convicted and incarcerated. The Black Caucus has failed the black community. Every Alderman of that Caucus should not have another term! The verdict of Van Dyke isn’t a win for Chicago, it’s an indicator that we have more fighting to do.
William Calloway, the activist responsible for the release of the Laquan McDonald tape, declined to comment.