Chicago Officer Charged with First Degree Murder in Death of Laquan McDonald: Video to be Released, Black Activists Refuse to Meet With Mayor (UPDATED)

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UPDATE: Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke shot the Black teen 16 times in October of last year. The video of the shooting is expected to be released tomorrow.

In what may prove surprising to some, this marks the first time that an on-duty Chicago cop has been charged with murder. But for Van Dyke, it appears to be a case of the chickens coming home to roost.  No stranger to controversy, the officer has received a total of 17 complaints since 2006, according to Independent Police Review Authority records.  This includes three complaints over the course of four years involving allegations of excessive force, and accusations that he made racial remarks.

The decision by prosecutors to charge Van Dyke comes as a judge last week ordered the release of the dashcam video in which Van Dyke riddled Laquan’s body with 16 bullets.  The city of Chicago settled with the McDonald family for $5 million before a lawsuit was even filed, and fought the release of the video for 13 months on the grounds there was an ongoing criminal investigation.  But earlier this year, Brandon Smith, a freelance journalist and activist, filed a lawsuit accusing the police of violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release the video of the McDonald shooting and other related documents.  Further, the Chicago Tribune filed three FOIA requests for the video to the police department, the city’s Law Department and the Independent Police Review Authority, of which all requests were denied.

On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a conference call with community leaders and ministers to condemn Van Dyke’s “hideous” actions.  He asked participants to help ensure peaceful protest after the video is released.

“Any descriptions I’ve read of this incident, to any person, regardless if you’re the mayor or just an individual, it would shock you, because it’s basically not only a person taking the law into their own hands, but they don’t have a measure and are not using the judgment that is expected,” Emanuel told the ministers, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.  “What happened here is wrong. There is no justification and it’s profoundly hideous, in my view. And it’s a shock to your conscience of what happened, and it should not have happened.”  Emanuel reportedly has not viewed the video.

Meanwhile, as the mayor attempts to get all his ducks in a row and meet with community groups in order to keep the peace, a coalition of young Black activist groups held a press conference to criticize city leaders over their slow response, and express their refusal to meet with Emanuel.  The groups include Black Youth Project 100, Fearless Leading by the Youth, Assata’s Daughters, #LetUsBreathe collective, We Charge Genocide, Black Lives Matter: Chicago, and other grassroots collectives.

“Young black organizers have declined the offer to meet with Rahm’s administration to discuss the video and are focusing on reaching out to the people who are directly impacted by the occupation of militarized police and community disinvestment,” the coalition said in a statement.  “The city historically responds to peaceful demonstrations violently and recklessly. We have no faith that the same Mayor that allowed people to starve for 34 days over a school, will be accountable to black people just because we respond calmly to a documented hate crime committed by a Chicago police officer.”

The activist coalition also noted that the Chicago Police Department has spent over half a billion dollars over the past decade to settle police misconduct claims, and claimed Mayor Emanuel has bankrupted public education “to bankroll militarized police occupation and terrorism.”  As the police presence is increasing, the group argued, Black teachers are losing their jobs and schools in Black communities are shutting down.  These Black activists, organizing against a culture of white supremacy which is destroying their communities, reject the myth of “Black on Black” crime and encourage the media to focus on Laquan’s humanity.

“Everything is being taken from us, nothing is being given to us and everyone is trying to tell us how to act and respond to that,” said Timothy Bradford of Black Youth Project 100. “There’s always focus on how black people perform and respond to being abused and exploited and oppressed politically, economically and socially. There’s very little focus and investment in addressing the root causes of everything that precedes this.”

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