Two years ago, it was easy to ignore the deaths of troubled wards like Laquan McDonald.
When it came to police brutality, most of us were asleep.
But when the city was ordered to release a dashcam video that captured Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting the teenager 16 times, we were jarred awake.
The shocking videotape forced the entire city to confront the flawed and, in some respects, corrupt system of policing that made it possible for a veteran police officer to think it was OK to use such a horrific level of force against a teenager armed with a small knife.
Although Van Dyke has been charged with murder and is awaiting trial, Chicagoans are still divided over this issue.
While some believe it was wrong for Van Dyke to use deadly force, others argue that the officer had no choice.
Whatever side you came down, Laquan McDonald’s sad life and tragic death were the catalyst for major changes within the Chicago Police Department, and, hopefully, within the communities police officers serve.
It is fitting that on the second anniversary of Laquan’s death, we pause and remember how we got here and reflect on where we need to go.
To that end, activists are planning to gather for two events on Thursday.
A group that includes elected officials and clergy plan to hold a 10:00 a.m. news conference at the intersection of 41st and Pulaski, near where Laquan was killed, to unveil proposed recall legislation targeting elected officials.
Although there has been no evidence that the mayor, Cook County state’s attorney or aldermen delayed the release of the dashcam video until after citywide elections, that accusation has persisted.
“We are calling it the ‘Laquan McDonald Act.’ It is geared toward three specific offices: Cook County state’s attorney, the mayor’s office and the Chicago City Council. Those are the ones we feel were co-conspirators,” said William Calloway, one of the people responsible for getting the dashcam video released.
“Under the act, we would have a process where we could remove those elected officials going forward if we feel that they are conspiring to cover up police misconduct,” he said.
House Bill 6616 establishes protocol for recalling people elected to those offices, according to a spokesman for state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor of the recall legislation. Dunkin, whose loss to Juliana Stratton in the Democratic primary was seen as a retaliatory strike for his support of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s turnaround agenda, is slated to attend the news conference.
A demonstration is also planned outside of Chicago Police Headquarters at 6:00 p.m., where organizers are expecting Laquan McDonald’s mother and other relatives to speak.
In the past, Tina Hunter has declined to appear at rallies or to speak to the media.
“His death has had such a big impact, not only on our city but nationwide. We also want to commemorate the lives of others who have suffered a tragic loss of someone at the hands of law enforcement,” Calloway told me.
Like other rallies organized to protest police shootings, “Laquan Day,” is largely being organized on social media.
A tally on the Facebook event page shows 624 people have responded as “going” to the events and 1,600 others expressed interest.
“There’s a lot of interest in the grass-roots community, and we are expecting a strong turnout,” Calloway told me.
“It is very, very important that we change the political landscape of the city where we would have accountability from elected officials, especially City Council,” he said.
In the two years since Laquan’s death, debates over police shootings have continued to dominate national political campaigns.
The turnout for “Laquan Day” will show how many of us may have fallen back asleep.Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST