By Julia Camara | Echo
Protesters continue to pour unto the streets of downtown Chicago after the Nov. 24 release of a video displaying a white police officer gunning down a 17-year-old African- American youth. The video surfaced a striking 13 months after the shooting took place, revealing a series of events contradicting initial police reports.
The video came from a police dashboard camera that displayed the officer, Jason Van Dyke, open firing at Laquan McDonald, while his fellow police comrades stood by and watched. In the video, the boy, armed with a knife, jogs, then walks away from the officers who confronted him. He drops to the ground after the first shot and his body shakes as the officer continues to shoot him. Van Dyke emptied his gun with a total of 16 shots.
Demonstrating their opposition to the deadly shooting, crowds have protested for several days since the shooting by marching through intersections, singing, carrying empty caskets and stopping to pray in the middle of the road. Police arrested ten protesters, including the president of the NAACP, according to Reuters News. Reuters reports that NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, along with a number of seminary students, knelt and prayed in the middle of the street outside the City Hall.
NAACP college and youth director, Stephen Green, participated in the community outcry, saying he understood they would probably be arrested but that together they previously agreed "to break the man's law to uphold moral law for transformation in the city of Chicago," according to Reuters News.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a public apology Wednesday to the aldermen-a city council of 50 men-claiming responsibility because of his position as mayor.
"This is a defining moment on the issues of crime and policing-and the even larger issues of truth, justice and race," Emmanuel said.
Van Dyke has a history of undisciplined misconduct, as cited in the The Chicago Tribune. The Chicago police records revealed that accusations have been raised against him for using racially insensitive names, roughing up suspects and, according to one complaint, unjustifiably pointing a gun at an arrestee. Following the release of the video, Van Dyke was forced to resign from his position and charged with first degree murder.
According to Reuters, Van Dyke's defense attorney claimed the officer shot and killed McDonald in fear for his life and those of his fellow police officers when he saw the boy had a knife. If convicted, Van Dyke could face anywhere from 20 years to life in prison. He currently stands as Chicago's first police officer in decades to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting, reported the The New York Times .
Following the release of the video, riots swarmed the streets of Chicago as concerned citizens protested for the officer to be tried for murder, according to The Chicago Tribune. On Sunday, Nov. 30, three hundred people chanting and waving signs speckled the streets of downtown Chicago, stopping periodically to kneel in prayer.
"We care because all of our children matter," said Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., an activist-politician who marched Sunday alongside other African American lawmakers. "We want Jason (Van Dyke) to be in jail. Those who watched him and falsified reports must join him."
In a day where news of police brutality paints the morning headlines, the nation grieves together, hoping for a firm but peaceful response to the use of deadly forces by police. The family of Laquan McDonald agrees with black community leaders and city authorities that all responses must be calm.
"No one understands the anger more than us," McDonald's family stated through their lawyer, according to Reuters. "But if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful. Don't resort to violence in Laquan's name. Let his legacy be better than that."
This incident not only reminds us of violent crimes nationwide, but it also serves as a contributing factor to the longevity of the Black Lives Matter Civil Rights movement. In light of a coming new year, America grieves together with questions of whether this cycle of shootings, protests, court trials and apologies will simply repeat itself.