Archer Heights, Chicago – Amid criticism of how Mayor Rahm Emanuel handled the situation, the Laquan McDonald Act underscores some Chicagoans’ sense that officials’ ‘renewed commitment’ toward improving relations with community members has not gone far enough. A group of community activists are pushing for a new law that would allow citizens to recall local politicians who fail them. They did this all while a crowd of more than 200 gathered outside Chicago Police headquarters Thursday night to commemorate the life of Laquan McDonald.
Demonstrators called for the prosecution of police officers who use deadly force and encouraged people to support the passage of Illinois House Bill 6616, the Laquan McDonald Act. The proposed legislation was inspired by the fallout of the release of the McDonald shooting video last year.
William Calloway, a community activist from South Shore who organized the rally, said one of the goals of the evening was to “make sure what happened to him never happens again.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ken Dunkin (5th), would establish “a procedure for an election to recall the Mayor of Chicago, an alderman of the City of Chicago, and the Cook County State’s Attorney.” The bill would go into effect immediately.
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke could be seen on dashcam video shooting the 17-year-old boy 16 times in the 4100 block of South Pulaski on Oct. 20, 2014.
In November 2015, after an order from a Cook County judge, the city released the video, sparking weeks of protest and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and then-Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to resign.
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder hours before the video was released, a move that drew much skepticism from activists and community leaders who believed the decision to wait to file charges was to ensure Emanuel’s re-election.
Actvist William Calloway of Christianaire, talks about the LaQuan McDonald Act, a new law introduced by State Rep Ken Dunkin to recall elected officials.
Earlier on Thursday, protesters rallied at City Hall and at the site where McDonald was killed.
Emanuel issued a statement saying: “Two years ago Laquan McDonald lost his life tragically and unnecessarily. His death was a wake-up call for our city on an issue that has challenged the city for decades, and brought a renewed commitment to a public conversation about policing and community relations. But more than just breaking from the past, we will continue working together across the city to build a brighter future by restoring trust between residents and our officers, and implementing the reforms necessary to prevent this from happening again.”
Among the speakers at the evening rally was Chicago activist, former aldermanic candidate and hip-hop artist Che “Rhymefest” Smith.
He told the crowd of several hundred that problems facing certain parts of Chicago have ripple effects into other parts.
“When things are happening on the West Side that aren’t good for communities and are costing money, it’s going cost you over on the Gold Coast, it’s going cost you over on LaSalle Street,” he said. “Chicago has to be one.”
Other speakers included families who’ve lost relatives to police shootings, including the brother of Rekia Boyd, who was killed by former Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin, and a family representative of Bettie Jones, who was fatally shot by Officer Robert Rialmo, as well as those whose family members have died in civilian shootings.
Earlier this week, Chicago surpassed 600 homicides in 2016. More than 2,100 people have been wounded in nonfatal shootings this year.
“We don’t just have a law enforcement problem,” Calloway said. “We have a community problem. We can’t just hold law enforcement accountable if we don’t hold the community accountable.”
Community activists released balloons on “Laquan Day,” which commemorated the two-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke. Participants called for passage of “Laquan’s Law” during the event in front of CPD headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave.
If the Illinois Legislature fails to pass the Laquan McDonald Act, which would allow for the recall of Chicago’s mayor and aldermen and the Cook County state’s attorney, Calloway said “we’re shutting down the Mag Mile on Black Friday.”
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.