The Laquan McDonald case is not going away, but rather the movement for justice for the Black teen, executed gangland style by a white Chicago police officer, is growing. And now, Laquan’s murder, captured by dashcam footage that was released last week, stands to disrupt the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and bring down prominent city officials.
A story behind the story is the missing surveillance video from the Burger King restaurant, located 50 yards away from the scene of the fatal shooting. This, as federal authorities learn more about the circumstances surrounding an apparent cover-up and an unfolding case of official corruption and criminal wrongdoing. According to WGN, the manager of the Burger King told a federal grand jury that police erased the video. Ironically, the manager told reporters that the officers were caught on the surveillance system deleting the surveillance video in question. The FBI now has possession of that video, according to the manager. When she announced the first degree murder charges against officer Jason Van Dyke, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez insisted there was no evidence the video had been deleted, a claim which Mayor Emanuel reinforced.
On Saturday, following the shutdown of Black Friday by protesters on Michigan Avenue, a group of activists circled Chicago City Hall carrying a black casket in memory of Laquan McDonald and Tyshawn Lee, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The purpose of the demonstration was to draw attention to the mishandling of the case by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. On Friday, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined the growing voices calling for McCarthy’s resignation.
“Laquan McDonald’s blood is spilling all over City Hall,” said Tio Hardiman, president of Violence Interrupters, at the protest as the group chanted, “How many more must die?”
Hardiman called for the removal of Emanuel, McCarthy and Alvarez due to their treatment of cases involving police brutality and misconduct.
“City Hall is where [the casket] needs to be because this is where the cover up took place,” Hardiman said, according to the Sun-Times. “Stop killing in our community first. Own and operate the businesses in our community first, then we won’t have to boycott nobody.”
Hardiman added that only a united community will lead to resignations and an end to bloodshed in the streets. “If there is no unity, we’re going to keep killing each other.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson joined those who are calling for the resignation of Alvarez and McCarthy. The veteran civil rights leader also demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Van Dyke murder trial, as was reported by the Huffington Post. Jackson added that he wants a federal investigation into the Chicago police department in order to change a culture of racial bias. He also called for a White House conference on violence in urban cities, and innovation to create opportunity for disenfranchised communities.
“We need bold comprehensive change in the police department and the criminal justice system,” Jackson said at a news conference at Rainbow PUSH headquarters. “Too much time for too little crime.”
Meanwhile, despite attempts by city officials to paint Officer Van Dyke as an outlier and a “bad apple,” the fact remains that the Chicago police department has been dirty and rotten for decades. As the Huffington Post reports, for nearly a century the department has been known for corruption, conspiracy, torture, racism and the blue wall of silence, with a blurring line between organized crime and local politicians. A 1928 headline from the Southeast Missourian, “Chicago Police Department Is Called Rotten,” says it all.
“The utter disregard for the fulfillment of their duties by the police department is appalling, and there is no question in the minds of the members of this jury that the police department is rotten to the core,” said Frank J. Loesch, anti-corruption reformer and founder of the Chicago Crime Commission, of the Chicago police in 1928.
That year, President Herbert Hoover’s Wickersham Commission found there was a prevalence of police torture and interrogation tactics known as the “third degree” in Chicago. Adults and even juvenile suspects were beaten with objects ranging from pone books to rubber hoses.
The conduct of Chicago police at the 1968 Democratic convention, during which time officers removed their badges and walked into crowds on Vietnam War protesters in order to beat them down, stands as proof that the Chicago police only became worse over time. The December 4, 1969 assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, 21, was an example of the depths of criminality the Chicago police were able to reach. Fourteen officers were involved in the plot, firing as many as 99 bullets into Hampton’s house, killing him and Michael Clark, 22, a Panther leader from Peoria, Illinois. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI worked in secret with the CPD and the Cook County State Attorney on the assassination.
Meanwhile, Chicago police commander Jon Burge oversaw the abuse and torture of about 100 Black men over three decades. Burge, who honed his skills in Vietnam, beat, suffocated and used electric shock on his victims. Many were wrongfully convicted, some men were sent to death row. While the city has paid out more than half a billion dollars to settle cases related to his torture, many victims are still seeking justice. Burge served a 3 ½ year prison sentence, and lives in Florida on a $4,000 monthly pension.
In yet another case, in 2012 Rekia Boyd, 22, was killed by off-duty detective Dante Servin. Servin fatally shot Boyd in the back of the head following a verbal altercation, claiming he feared for his life and that a man in Boyd’s group pointed a gun at him. The “gun” turned out to be a cell phone. Boyd’s family was awarded $4.5 million in a wrongful death suit but Servin escaped conviction on a technicality and was cleared of involuntary manslaughter charges because he was under-charged for the crime.
Van Dyke is the first Chicago officer in over 30 years to be indicted for murder. If convicted, he would be the first on-duty Chicago cop in modern times found guilty of first degree murder.