More than 2,000 protesters took to the streets in one of Chicago’s busiest shopping districts during Black Friday following the release of a graphic video last week showing the year-old murder of a Black teenager by a white police officer who shot him 16 times.
The video, which the city of Chicago resisted releasing for more than a year and finally released Tuesday evening only after a court order, shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot while he was walking away from police — and continuing to be shot while already lying motionless on the ground.
In anticipation of the video’s imminent release, officer Jason Van Dyke on Tuesday was charged with first-degree murder and turned himself in. He had been on modified duty since the shooting and is now being held without bond.
Despite Van Dyke being charged with murder, protesters, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and other Black leaders, allege a yearlong cover-up by the city which, they say, would not have charged Van Dyke had the video not been released.
“We need bold comprehensive change in the police department and the criminal justice system,” Jackson said during a news conference.
Protesters on Friday blocked store entrances and shut down traffic in the famed Magnificent Mile area of Chicago chanting “16 shots, 14 months” — referring to the number of times McDonald was shot and the length of time it took to release the video and pursue charges against Van Dyke — and are demanding a U.S. Justice Department investigation into how the city handled the shooting and its aftermath.
Activists also called for the resignations of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez, suggesting a cover up by city officials.
Among the marchers was Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who called on teachers to support the protesters. The union reportedly paid for a robocall by Jackson on Thursday that encouraged people to participate in the Black Friday demonstrations.
Chicago Urban League interim President and CEO Shari Runner also called for McCarthy to be fired and Alvarez to resign.
“Accountability means just that, and change is warranted in what has clearly been a major miscarriage of justice,” Runner said.
Earlier this year, a group of Black city council members had already called for McCarthy to be fired, in part due to the city’s fast-growing homicide rate, and the fact that little effort has been made to hire and promote Black officers.
The “cover-up conspiracy of Laquan’s death is proof that Alvarez, Emanuel, and CPD [Chicago Police Department] do not stand for justice and are corrupt public servants,” said Rachel Williams, an organizer for Black Youth Project 100 in a statement. “Our communities are less safe because of their decisions and they are unqualified to lead and protect our city.”
On Friday, McCarthy told reporters that he had no intention of resigning. “I have never quit on anything in my life,” he said. “The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back. If people peel away the onion on what’s happening right now in the policing world, you’re going to find a police department that is doing an exceptional job and quite frankly I’m not going to quit on the people of Chicago and I’ll never quit on these men and women.”
From Jackson’s point of view, however, “In Chicago, officials offered no remedy. Instead they sat on the tape for more than a year, buried the killing in an unending investigation, gave the officer a pass, and got through the elections.”