Shooting by Chicago cop stirs protests

By ADAM SHILS

— CHICAGO — On Oct. 20, 2014, Laquan McDonald, 17, was fatally shot by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. McDonald, who had been suspected of stealing car radios, was only armed with a knife.

The police car dash-cam video shows McDonald some yards from the police officers and not moving toward them when Van Dyke opens fire. Although McDonald has fallen to the ground and appears to be incapacitated by the first shot, the officer fires 15 more times. Van Dyke had to be stopped by other police officers from reloading at the end of the volley.

Over a year after the shooting, on Nov. 24, 2015, Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder—the same day that the dash-cam video was finally released.

All this occurs in the context of the post-Ferguson attention to the shooting of African Americans by police officers and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Demonstrations, mainly of young people, started immediately after the video was made public. As protesters wove through the streets, the chant rang out: “Sixteen shots!” Protesters have expressed outrage that it took 13 months after the killing to indict Van Dyke. He was allowed to draw a salary during the entire period.

Over the past several days, attention has focused on the possibility that the police intentionally erased footage from a security camera at a Burger King near the site of McDonald’s shooting. While the angle of the camera would not have shown the actual killing, it would have shown the events beforehand and, perhaps more importantly, police activity in the minutes after the shooting. In addition, the Burger King manager has charged that the FBI seized the video recorder, including all of its surveillance footage.

On “Black Friday”, Nov. 27, the Rev. Jesse Jackson called for a demonstration in the Michigan Avenue “Magnificent Mile” shopping area. Despite rain and high winds, perhaps 1000 to 1300 people took part. The march was predominantly African American, and much of the traditional Black leadership of Chicago supported the march. Both Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, long-term elected officials, were prominent, as was mayoral contender Chuy Garcia.

At the assembly point, the Rev. Jackson raised the demand that an independent prosecutor be assigned to the case, as well as federal intervention. “Who knew what about the tape,” he asked, “When, and who covered it up?”

Before the march even began, a contingent of perhaps 100 t0 200 people, carrying the traditional red, black, and green flags of the Black nationalist movement, split away. The main demonstration then marched north through the Michigan Avenue shopping area. The march ended at Water Tower Place, where a rally was to be held. Jackson and the other speakers faced considerable heckling from the breakaway contingent. In a confrontation, the platform’s sound system was disabled. This led to Jackson and his entourage leaving the demonstration.

After some of the shops on Michigan Avenue had closed their doors to protesters who were trying to get out of the rain, some demonstrators, in groups of 10 to 20 people, linked their arms and began to block the shop entrances. These blockades continued for several hours. While there was a large police presence, there were only a small number of arrests. One group of about 20 continued a blockade of Macy’s into the evening.

On Saturday, Nov. 28, three considerably smaller demonstrations took place. One was at City Hall and one on Cottage Grove Avenue, with some limited blockading of Michigan Avenue shops.

Photo: Chicago protesters take to the streets on Nov. 24. Paul Beaty / AP