Honored Laquan McDonald activist launches campaign 

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WILLIAM CALLOWAY, an activist who helped to expose the Laquan McDonald tape, has launched a GOFUNDME account to keep his social justice organization alive, so that he can help more families unearth the truth about police-related shootings. (Photo by Chinta Strausberg) 

By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

William Calloway, the activist whose persistence led to the release of the infamous Laquan McDonald police video, has started a fundraising drive to prevent violence and raise awareness in the Black community.

Calloway is executive director of Christianaire, a not-for-profit organization geared towards violence prevention, community development and social justice initiatives.

Calloway has started a fundraising campaign on the popular crowdfunding website, gofundme.com. He said he set up a Christianaire account “to raise funding for my organization to help social justice initiatives and violence prevention and to raise awareness of what is happening in the African American community.”

Calloway is best known for his involvement in the release of the infamous October 20, 2014 shooting video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The teenager died after being shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. In the video, Van Dyke is seen walking away from police carrying a 3-inch knife.

The November release of the video sparked widespread protests that continued for months in Chicago. It also triggered significant changes in city and county agencies. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired last December. In the March primary election, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was voted out of office after she waited more than a year to charge Van Dyke with first-degree murder. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the Chicago Police Department for civil rights violations.

Many credit the sweeping changes to Calloway and his efforts in getting the video released. In January, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition honored him at their annual Martin Luther King Scholarship Breakfast. In March, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown also honored Calloway with an award for his efforts.

Calloway said various people played a role in getting the videotape of McDonald released.

“I heard about this tape that existed and that captured the shooting of McDonald, but I did not know about getting the tape. I did not know what a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was.”

Calloway called on a friend, attorney Billy Joe Mills, who introduced him to independent journalist Brandon Smith, who filed a FOIA request and ultimately secured the release of the tape.

He is currently working on yet another police shooting of 15-year-old Michael Wesley on Father’s Day, June 16, 2013. “Eyewitnesses say Wesley was running unarmed and that the police shot him, but the police say they were responding to shots fired at 66th and Sangamon,” Calloway said.

As distrust in the police department lingers, Calloway doesn’t believe the police version of Welsey’s shooting.

“Wesley’s mother reached out to me and told me there was a light pole camera that captured the shooting, but the police have been giving me a very hard time releasing that tape. I filed a lawsuit to get that tape.”

Calloway said he will continue to fight for social justice issues, because he believes “It is my assignment from God.”

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