Protesters used an empty casket to dramatize the death of Laquan McDonald during a demonstration outside Chicago City Hall last weekend. (Photo by Chinta Strausberg)
Protests continue to rock Chicago as calls mount for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation for his handling of the controversial police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
More protests are planned in front of City Hall where NAACP President Cornell William Brooks and nine others were arrested on Monday, November 30. On Friday, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) plans to lead a march around City Hall at noon calling on sweeping reforms in addition to Emanuel’s resignation.
The demands come as Black leaders scramble to calm a community that continues to express anger and pain of betrayal from a video of the brutal police shooting that was released on Nov. 24.
As Chicago remains in the national spotlight, young generations of Blacks continue to drive many protests hoping to dismantle a system that they believe has failed Blacks seeking equal justice and civil rights.
On Tuesday night, hundreds of young protesters descended on Chicago Police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan, celebrating McCarthy’s termination as the city’s top cop. They also urged the same fate for Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez—both of whom who have been unable to answer key questions in the McDonald case that many view as an apparent cover-up.
Emanuel said Wednesday he’s opposed to a broader federal civil rights investigation into the city’s police department, but admitted he made “mistakes” during the investigation into the McDonald shooting.
The concerns have reached Springfield where Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking for a federal probe of Chicago Police Department’s practices, which have often been criticized for its abrasive culture and code of silence among police officers.
At a vigil outside of the police headquarters on Monday, two white women—Lauren Awtry, 20, from Lincoln Park and Adria Willett, 39, from Ravenswood, a suburb northwest from Chicago—joined a diverse crowd of 500 people who participated in a peaceful demonstration that called for changes in the police department after watching the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald.
“It’s such a tragedy,” Awtry said. “I can’t believe what the family is going through.”
Willet said Van Dyke’s indictment of first-degree murder char- ges is “a little late. The church needs to bring us together. I think race and class are coming together during this crisis.”
Despite the firing of the Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Tuesday, residents from Chicago’s affluent neighborhoods and suburbs have joined protests, vigils and meetings throughout the city to express their distrust in Emanuel as he struggles to restore his credibility as the city’s most powerful leader.
On Wednesday—one day after McCarthy’s ouster—Black leaders and retired Black police officers held a meeting and a press conference on the South Side to discuss a possible replacement for the open position.
There were reports that Chicago’s highest-ranking Black police officer—retired First Deputy Superintendent Alfonza (Al) Wysinger—was a possible replacement, but
the Crusader could not confirm whether Wysinger attended Wed- nesday’s meeting.
Wysinger’s possible candidacy may set up a possible showdown with Hispanic elected officials who support Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante, who was given the position after McCarthy was fired on Tuesday.
Escalante, a 29-year veteran on the force, was promoted to First Deputy Superintendent after McCarthy announced Wysinger’s retirement in October. During his 30-year career on the force, Wysinger was credited with reducing crime in some of the city’s neighborhoods. In his announcement to retire, news reports stated Wysinger said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
McCarthy’s appointment of Escalante reportedly angered Black elected officials who wanted Wysinger replaced with another Black high-ranking police officer. The appointment of Escalante reportedly triggered calls for McCarthy’s resignation by Black leaders in October.
As high-ranking Blacks on the city’s police force remains a concern, so does the future of Emanuel’s mayoral career. Since the release of a video that showed McDonald being shot 16 times by Van Dyke on October 20, 2014, Emanuel and Alvarez have been under fire for taking more than a year to bring first-degree murder charges against Laquan’s killer.
Despite firing McCarthy and appointing a six-member police task force, many in Chicago still believe Emanuel is a leader who can no longer be trusted and should step down as mayor.
Many local and state leaders emailed the Crusader expressing their concerns that Emanuel’s termination of McCarthy is not enough to regain the trust of the Black community and Chicago. While some say the mayor fired McCarthy to save his own job, many more have called on the mayor to step down, saying the distrust he has created is irreversible.
Participants in several protests that have been held at numerous sites in the Chicago— from City Hall to the Chicago Police headquarters—shared those concerns.
On Monday, angry listeners on WVON AM Radio also flooded the airwaves during a talk show hosted by Cliff Kelley.
At a community town hall meeting at Christ Tabernacle Church in Austin on Tuesday, Boykin was one of many who praised the firing of McCarthy, but he also expressed concern about Emanuel’s credibility and his appointed six-member task force.
“This task force the mayor appointed today…he appointed those people, not the community. Let’s be real,” Boykin told the crowd.
“We need every official from the state and the city to be investigated from top to bottom,” said Reverend Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin. “The police belong to the people, not the mayor. If there is corruption in the system, one rotten apple will taint the whole barrel.”
The meeting was attended by various officials from the NAACP; state elected officials and Alderman Chris Taliaferro (29th). Several of the city’s Black officers were also in attendance. Boykin said they called his office seeking to participate in the discussion. One of the officers who attended the meeting, Eddie Johnson, a 26-year veteran police officer, is deputy chief in the Bureau of International Relations.
“I’m here to listen to what solutions you have because we get it,” Johnson said. “The police can’t fix this alone. We need your help in helping us with this.”
Johnson explained the role of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) is disciplining officers who are involved in controversial shootings. He went on to say the process is a long, but necessary one, to effectively investigate a police shooting.
But, Boykin commented, “The IPRA is useless. Since 2007, the IPRA has had 400 cases and only one officer has been disciplined (for gross misconduct).”
At the meeting, numerous residents voiced their distrust and anger at the city and police department.
Cameilla Williams, 26, a community activist who grew up on the South Side, questioned the credibility of many of the city’s Black leaders, whom she believes were aware of Laquan’s case as it languished in the hands of Alvarez and Emanuel.
“It’s time for transparency,” she said. “It’s time for accountability.”