Tensions in Chicago are nearing a peak as the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the police officer charged in the killing of Laquan McDonald, rolls on.
In advance of whatever the verdict may be, officials and residents around the city are preparing for a potentially angry reaction from Black residents. A group of Black pastors and activists, in a sort of pre-emptive move, want protest, policy action, and a daylong strike of all city workers — but no violence. This to prepare for if a jury fails to convict Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald.
“We do not want people to be calm,” William Calloway, an activist from South Shore told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Because there’s no reason to be calm if somebody who shot somebody 16 times is acquitted for murder.
“What we are asking the community of the city of Chicago is to be non-violent and non-destructive,” Calloway added, saying the city needed to rise up for anything less than a murder conviction.
Calloway was the man who filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May 2015 which eventually forced the release of the video that showed Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times. He and a large group of Black pastors from across the city came together on Monday to outline their plans, which include a “rapid response” team of volunteers to deploy in the wake of a verdict.
Learning from the Past
“We saw what happened in Ferguson,” Calloway said. “We saw what happened in Baltimore. All of us being Chicagoans, we know what Chicago is capable of.
James Moody, the pastor of Quinn Chapel AME, said the group’s goals were a “just and godly verdict, peace in the streets, and the protection of lives and property.”
He added “we’re praying for sustainable changes, legal changes, that would prevent something like this from happening again.”
If Van Dyke is acquitted, the group will demand the passage of the Laquan McDonald Act, which would allow for the recall of Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel, the Cook County state’s attorney, and any Chicago alderman.
They also believe federal civil rights charges should be pursued against Van Dyke regardless of the verdict. They will also call for changes to the contract between Chicago and its police officers by, for example, eliminating the waiting period police have before giving their account of shootings for the record.
“These are our communities that we live in,” Calloway said. “We don’t want the destruction of our communities.”