The recent Thanksgiving Holidays were very eventful in the African American community. For a long time now we have anguished over the proper and most effective way to combat the issue of police brutality. This past holiday something very special happened – many young African Americans and their allies of diverse races came together and actually shut down Michigan Avenue and the so-called Magnificent Mile. They blocked traffic and in so doing the community has flexed its mighty muscles in a campaign to boycott Black Friday. From all indications, the strategy seemed to work, with millions of dollars lost while big stores closed early or altogether during the demonstrations.
The catalyst for this latest foray into active struggle was a videotape released showing 17 year old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by police Officer, Jason Van Dyke. The actual murder occurred in October, 2014. And yes, it was a murder. The videotape clearly shows McDonald walking down the street, away from the police when he was shot. He fell into the street, and as he lay there, the officer continued to shoot him. Altogether, there was a total of 16 shots, most of them occurring while Laquan was down. Office Van Dyke apparently wanted to make sure that the teenager was DEAD!
Several things are interesting about this case. For one, why was the videotape released at this time after a year had lapsed. Certainly, those in a position to know, i.e., Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel knew what the tape revealed. They also knew that it would provoke outrage, and they were no doubt prepared for any violent uprising. Thankfully, and probably very disappointing for some, there was no violent uprising; there was no looting and senseless burning of businesses in the Black community. Instead, Black Chicagoans and those who came to support them chose a very proper strategy, one that can have far reaching ramifications and can pave the way for a new economic order and social change. It was as obvious as the sun in the heat of summer that Laquan McDonald was blatantly killed, and that his murder was covered up. A Burger King Restaurant employee has even come forth saying that cameras which could have captured the event were erased by the police! Incredibly, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has denied the notion that the tape revealed what it revealed; she reportedly said that it was not an obvious murder, because the tape did not show what happened before McDonald was shot. Never mind that he was shot while walking away, and was shot multiple times as he lay dying in the street. Also, just as ludicrous, Officer Jason Van Dyke has said that he “feared for his life” which is why he shot Laquan. Any officer that is so afraid that he would shoot and kill someone walking away multiple times need not be on a municipal police force. Such a person is dangerous and delusional, but more likely just filled with racist hatred. It has been said that Van Dyke had exhibited abusive behavior multiple times in the past.
As the tapes were being released, Officer Van Dyke was arrested and charged with first degree murder. His bond was set at $1.5 million. This may have been met with relief by some members of the community who may feel that they have finally seen the justice system work correctly. It also probably helped prevent anticipated violent behavior. Cynics, however, are looking at the situation with a jaundiced eye. In order for a charge of first degree murder to stick, it must be shown that there was premeditated intent. In such a case, this will be hard to prove, since an officer working in the line of duty may not have anticipated the encounter and, therefore, the murder couldn’t be premeditated. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
A chief take-away from this entire debacle, though, is the power that can be wielded by the Black community when money is spent strategically. A caution: the ultimate goals of the boycotts must be determined, whether they be more fair treatment by law enforcement or something else. Also, it would be prudent to make sure that the money withheld from corporate America finds its way into Black coffers in this new movement toward Black empowerment. The sleeping giant is no longer snoring, and hopefully, will be fully awake soon! A luta continua