Relatives of people killed by Chicago cops rallied with hundreds of community activists and supporters Thursday night in front of police headquarters, calling for greater officer accountability and the passage of Illinois legislation enabling recall of the city’s mayor and aldermen as well as the Cook County state’s attorney.
The rally capped events marking the second anniversary of Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting. In front of the stage was a chalk outline, symbolizing how McDonald fell to the pavement, and 16 bright yellow markers like what police use to pinpoint shell casings. The number reflected how many shots officer Jason Van Dyke fired into McDonald.
“I felt the need to be here,” said Cynthia Lane, whose 19-year-old son Roshad McIntosh was shot and killed by officers on the West Side two months before McDonald’s death, allegedly after pointing a gun at them, a version of events disputed by Lane.
“I’m in the same situation like the other mothers,” Lane said. “It’s an open wound that I don’t think will ever be healed.”
The speakers included hip-hop artist Rhymefest and several pastors. Many condemned Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his administration’s refusal to release the McDonald video until a judge compelled it 13 months after the shooting. Some also condemned State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for failing to bring charges against Van Dyke until the day the video was released.
William Calloway, who helped lead the push for the video’s release last year, pointed out that police officers are involved with only a small fraction of the city’s shootings. He led the crowd in a release of some 600 balloons, each symbolizing a Chicago murder victim this year.
“We can’t put those [killings] on the police,” Calloway said. “We have to make sure we hold ourselves, as community members, accountable and make sure that we fight for justice inside the community as well.”
Earlier in the day, faith and community leaders announced the recall legislation at a news conference near West 41st Street and South Pulaski Road, the site of the McDonald shooting.
Calloway said he was pleased that protests about the shooting had diminished Emanuel’s power, contributed to Alvarez’s reelection defeat in March, and led the city to enact a plan to replace the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency that investigates officer shootings and excessive-force complaints.
But Calloway said more needs to be done. “We demand more accountability on the elected officials that we feel co-conspired to cover up the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald,” he said.
Outgoing state Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, said he was introducing the legislation.
Not everyone at the press conference supported that effort. One onlooker, who was asked to leave, raised questions about Dunkin’s motives and noted that the lawmaker had accepted campaign money from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. Dunkin’s reelection bid ended in a March primary defeat.
Calloway warned that if lawmakers don’t pass the bill there will be protests on the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday. The Illinois legislature will be in session in the third week of November.
A statement from Emanuel about the McDonald anniversary called the teen’s death “a wake-up call for our city on an issue that has challenged the city for decades.”
“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,” the statement said.
Van Dyke, meanwhile, faces murder charges for the McDonald shooting. A special prosecutor is investigating an alleged police cover-up about the incident. And Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has recommended the dismissal of Van Dyke, three other patrol officers and a sergeant, alleging they provided false reports about the incident.