By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Activist William Calloway late Tuesday night held a town hall meeting at Saint Sabina to develop a contingency plan in anticipation of an ultimate verdict in the Laquan McDonald case, a proactive move he hopes will prevent violence and riots in the community.
Father Michael L. Pfleger said there must be a plan of action and a strategy. “How can we effectively bring a system that is wrong, and unjust, to change?” Pfleger asked.
He said the community must force the system to make changes and that it will take the churches and synagogues to participate. “How do we get their attention in a stronger way? We’ve got to unite, educate, come together and bring our forces because the system will stand together and fight the community,” Pfleger said. That plan of action, he said, must be completed before the Van Dyke decision.
Making clear that they are to be “peacemakers,” Calloway presented several suggestions as to the next plan of social justice demonstrations, such as going back to the Magnificent Mile or perhaps a boycott of the CTA. But, whatever the plan is, Calloway stressed it must be peaceful and prolonged, especially after the Van Dyke verdict.
Earlier in the week a judge set the Van Dyke trial for September 5 at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California. Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, accused of shooting the 17-year-old youth 16 times, faces first-degree murder charges.
Van Dyke’s lawyers are seeking a change of venue for fear of not getting a fair trial in Chicago.
Calloway, who called on all churches to work with the activists, said given what happened at 71st and Jeffery with the police shooting of 37-year-old Harith Augustus on July 14, it is important to come up with a contingency plan to prevent any violence in case Van Dyke is acquitted.
“We see in cities like Baltimore (where Freddie Gray was fatally shot by police) and cities like Ferguson (where Michael Brown was killed), what can happen if the community receives a negative response on law enforcement verdicts,” Calloway said.
“We are all from Chicago. We love the city, and we don’t want any negative advocacy. We don’t want to see riots. We want people to come together peacefully. That is our First Amendment right,” Calloway said, explaining this is the first of several contingency meetings. “We need to approach this from a Christian perspective…and to start bringing reconciliation and healing.”
Attorney Andre Grant painted the situation in a realistic manner. When the McDonald case goes to trial, Grant said, “It will be packed with police officers. There will be so many police officers there they will tell the community ‘there is no room for you,’” he said, urging citizens to pack the courtroom every day court is in session.
Grant warned, “Don’t be shocked… most jurors will be white and they will be siding with the police officers based on their historical experience. “They relate to police officers,” Grant said. “They can’t relate to 71st Street.”
He said not enough Blacks answer the call to serve on juries. “We have to be active in serving on juries.”
Grant said the first thing Blacks must do is to value their own lives. Grant urged those present to continue to organize. “It’s easier to react than it is to organize. Vote, be prepared, get involved and keep protesting.”
But, Grant said, “The system is not designed to send police officers to jail for killing Black people. It is going to be difficult for a jury of primarily white people to stand up and say we’re sending this officer to jail.
“It could happen, but even if he (Van Dyke) is convicted that doesn’t change what is going on in the Black community. That’s going to change when we change…when we make a demand on each other. Our lives are valuable. We’ve got to stop killing each other and they for damn sure got to stop killing us. This is a long, long fight. We have to keep pressure on the system. This is a battle that has to keep going on,” Grant said.