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‘The fight to have civil rights charges filed not over’

The fight to have civil rights charges filed against former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is far from over, Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said. In fact, it has just begun.

After holding a rally at the Federal Building on February 4, 2022, Bishop Grant confirmed during an interview on WVON’s “ON THE CASE, that U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr. has agreed to meet with them to discuss filing civil rights charges against Van Dyke, who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times and served just three years of a six-year sentence.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and a number of supporting groups are demanding that Lausch file civil rights charges against Van Dyke, calling his short sentence “a slap on the wrist.”

Grant said the meeting with Lausch will be held “pretty soon.”

Last Thursday, Grant repeatedly called activist Will Calloway on his phone to join them for the 3 p.m. press conference. Calloway’s supporters were inside the lobby of the Federal building, 219 S. Dearborn, waiting for their leader.

More than a half-hour later, Grant could no longer wait and he, along with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Father Michael Pfleger, Reverend Michael Eaddy, organizer Frank Chapman, and a small delegation delivered a letter to Lausch’s executive assistant, asking that Lausch file civil rights charges against Van Dyke. Lausch was out of town.

In that letter, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and supporters asked Lausch to bring charges against Van Dyke under Title 18 U.S.C., 242—deprivation of rights under color of law, to hold Van Dyke accountable for his murder of McDonald on October 20, 2014.

The letter dated January 27, 2022, stated, “Our country just spent the January 15 weekend remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. another young Black man whose life was taken by a hateful man with a gun.

“But to truly honor his memory, we must pursue the promise of an equal America with the same ferocity he did. Here in Chicago, that starts by ensuring justice is served to both Laquan McDonald and his murderer, Jason Van Dyke.

“We are dismayed that Chicago Police officer Van Dyke’s original sentence was a mere 81 months for the murder of McDonald,” the letter stated.

“It was a slap on the wrist, if that, to a man who fired 16 bullets to murder a 17-year-old boy. Meanwhile, Black, and Brown people are incarcerated for decades for lesser or similar crimes. Some are sentenced to life in prison without parole as habitual criminals, for relatively small crimes. This must make every decent person angry.

“Now comes the news that Van Dyke will be released from prison on February 3, after serving only half of his sentence. This is a slap in the face to Black people everywhere, especially in Chicago. This is telling us that our lives and deaths don’t matter. For this to occur during Black History Month is all the more egregious.

“This case has been a travesty of justice through and through, from the moment Officer Van Dyke killed Laquan McDonald, to the moment he was given virtual impunity through a minimum sentence for his murder, and all that the city did to try to cover up the crime.”

The letter also brought to the U.S. Attorney’s attention that “the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political repression filed 49 complaints with your office in 2016 from families that had their loved ones killed or brutalized and tortured by the Chicago Police Department (CPD).

“We were told by lawyers from the Civil rights Division that these complaints were being investigated. Yet to date we have seen no meaningful action from your office or the DOJ in Washington regarding the disposition of these cases.

“Lawyers from the Civil rights Division of the DOJ met with us twice, attended a hearing we and they called at Malcolm X College, interviewed many other people and organizations, and published a 164- page report. They said at the time that only the Criminal Division could prosecute the police perpetrators of these crimes. The Criminal Division did nothing that is known.

“We are still demanding justice for Laquan McDonald and the other 49 cases we are resubmitting with this letter.”

The letter was signed by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the NAACP, Aldermen Jeanette B. Taylor (20th), David Moore (17th), Andre Vasquez (40th), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Maria Hadden (49th), Pastor Emma Lozano, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Black Lives Matter— Chicago, Arab American Action Network, U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Jewish Voice for Peace, Community Renewal Society, SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana and many other organizations.

An hour later, Calloway and his supporters held a press conference at the Federal Building along with the grandmother and aunt of McDonald, also demanding that Lausch file civil rights charges against McDonald.

BISHOP TAVIS GRANT SPEAKING scaled
REV. JESSE L. JACKSON, SR., Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Father Michael L. Pfleger, Rev. Michael Eaddy, organizer Frank Chapman and others held a rally last Thursday, February 3, 2022, at the Federal Dirksen Building, 219 S. Dearborn, calling on the U.S. Attorney to file civil rights charges against Jason Van Dyke who shot Laquan McDonald 16 times but only served three of a six-year sentence. Van Dyke was released around 12:15 a.m. Thursday morning. (Photos by Chinta Strausberg)

Calling themselves the “Laquan 9,” five women and four men were arrested after protesting the early release of Van Dyke, including Calloway, former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green, and Justin Blake, uncle of Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer.

Nataki Rhodes, Dave Power, Kina Collins, Cassandra Greer-Lee, Amber Leaks, and Kate Readling were also among the nine arrested.

They were charged with misdemeanor civil contempt for violating the chief judge’s order that governs demonstrations at the Dirksen Federal Building.

Readling was also charged with recording the protest in the lobby of the building which is against the law.

Thursday, several federal marshals told both groups they could not take pictures or record the protest.

The “Laquan Nine” were due in court Tuesday, February 8.

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