Last week the video of the Laquan McDonald shooting was finally released to the public, following 13 months of pressure from independent journalists and the community, and as the result of a judge’s order. The officer who shot McDonald 16 times, Jason Van Dyke, was indicted for first degree murder the same day that the video was released. Protests that police described as peaceful and without any reports of property damage began that same night and have continued since, prompting some to ask why?
I will pretend that these people really do want to understand why a community would protest after an officer has been an indicted for murder and the video of the incident released to the public, even though I know they really don’t accept any reason (or method) for protesting law enforcement as valid; What they really want to do is go lick their cop apologist wounds without the inconvenient distractions of people calling attention to systematic police terror. That’s what they do when they can’t whip out the good ol’ “Facebook law degree” meme because someone who has both a law degree and prosecutorial powers has finally used that knowledge to reject the “feared for my safety” excuse.
The short answer for why people are still protesting is that this indictment is merely the cop apologist’s vision of “accountability.” Treating widespread patterns of police abuse and murder as singular incidents remedied through the indictment of individual officers and restitution, at taxpayer expense, to surviving families, while refusing to address or even acknowledge the context and circumstances that allow these incidents to happen over and over again, is not accountability, reform, or justice. Occasionally the powers-that-be will reluctantly sacrifice a few of their uniformed rabid beasts to placate public opinion enough to allow the others to continue abusing citizens below the radar. This is precisely why communities need to be more active, not less, following an indictment or firing of an individual or handful of individual officers.
This article, Chicago Has a Long History of Violent Police Abuse, provides a great deal of the context for the Laquan McDonald case. It’s well worth your time to read that other article, but to make things easier, here’s a list of the highlights, along with many that are not in the article (with links).
The Laquan McDonald case
- After police and city officials propagated the lies that Laquan McDonald had lunged at officers and been shot once in the chest, the dash cam video showed that Van Dyke shot McDonald as he walked away from the cops and then continued to shoot him as he lay on the ground for a total of 16 times.
- Thug accomplices of Van Dyke went into the Burger King near where the shooting occurred and erased 86 minutes of surveillance footage. This was initially reported in May. No officers have been arrested for tampering with evidence, and there has been no word of an investigation into their actions.
- Van Dyke had 18 complaints lodged against him and cost the city over $500,000 for an excessive force incident back in 2008. The city has already settled for Laquan McDonald’s family for $5 million.
- Now the case is being prosecuted by an attorney who sat on the dashcam video for over a year and only moved to get an indictment in the case when it was obvious the truth couldn’t be kept secret anymore, has previously shown bias in favor of police, and may have pursued first degree murder in the deliberate attempt to gain acquittal or a mistrial while telling the public, “look, we tried.”
The Chicago Police Department
- For an entire generation, the Chicago Police Department engaged in horrific acts of systematic torture against more than 100 black men, brutally forcing some to make false confessions that resulted in them spending decades in prison.
- One man was exonerated just days before he was scheduled to be executed, 4 other death row prisoners were pardoned, and in 2003, the Governor of Illinois commuted the death sentences of the remaining 163 people sentenced to be executed and declared an indefinite moratorium on executions in the state.In 2011, the death penalty was officially ended in Illinois.
- The architect of this torture program, John Burge, served prison time only for perjury and obstruction of justice, and is now free in society, enjoying the $4,000/month pension that the city saw fit for him to keep. Burge, whose legal expenses were paid for by Chicago’s taxpayers, said that he found it hard to believe that the City’s officials could “even contemplate giving reparations to human vermin.”
- Over $100 million has been paid in judgments and settlements to torture victims, and a reparation fund of $5.5 million that offers up to $100,000 to victims who have not already been compensated along with psychological counseling and free tuition was set up earlier this year.
- Just as one long drawn out episode of police terrorism drew to a close, another one was exposed as journalists got wind of the department’s Homan Square black site, where officers “disappeared” more than 7,000 people for off-the-books interrogations from August 2004 through June 2015. The people held there were not formally booked and were denied access to lawyers and calls to their families as they were pressured to confess or turn informant over the course of hours and even days. At least 6 men have filed lawsuits against Chicago for civil rights abuses they experienced at Homan Square.
- Department records show that in 17,000 complaints submitted over a four year period only 4% were sustained after investigation, and even then “three-fourths of the officers found to have committed some kind of wrongdoing weren’t docked any time off or received suspensions of five days or less.”
- Chicago has paid more than half a billion dollars for police brutality settlements since 2004. This is at a time when Illinois is so broke that they are issuing IOUs to lottery players who win $600 or more.
- The Chicago Police Department is long on criminally violent psychopathy, and short on results to show for it, based on these pitifully incompetent crime clearance rates from 2010, the most recent ones available on their website. Residents are left vulnerable to vicious predation from both sides of the thin blue line.
- Despite this established history of pervasive abuse at all levels, Chicago is not one of the 67 cities to have its police departments formally investigated by the Department of Justice for police brutality, racial bias and other civil rights violations. With Mayor Rahm Emanuel being such a close political ally of Barack Obama, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
In closing, Chicago has probably the worst police department in the entire country, its crime clearance rate is abysmal, and to top it off, a well-rated TV show glorifies the wanton police abuse and terror that residents are subjected to on a daily basis. But some people wonder why Chicagoans are “still” protesting.