Dorothy Holmes was watching the news at her Roseland neighborhood home on Friday, when she learned that a jury had cleared Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop last July in a St. Paul suburb. The shooting was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend.
Like Castile’s mother, Holmes has also watched a video of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting her own son, Ronald Johnson, 25, during a chase in October 2014 in the Washington Park neighborhood.
Then-Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez declined to press charges against the officer, and the shooting was later cleared by the Independent Police Review Authority, which determined the officer had acted according to department policy.
“I can feel her pain,” Holmes said on Sunday to a few hundred people gathered at 53rd Street and King Drive in Washington Park for a rally to protest the verdict in Castile’s case. “My heart goes out to her deeply.”
The event was initially planned to be a Father’s Day celebration, but that changed when the officer was acquitted of manslaughter in Castile’s death, according to organizers.
Holmes, as well as others who attended Sunday’s rally — steps from where her son was shot — said she wasn’t surprised by the verdict.
“It was what I was expecting,” she said. “That’s hard, but it’s what I thought.”
As much as Sunday’s rally was a show of solidarity in Chicago for Castile’s family, organizers said, it also was a reminder that the work of activists was far from finished and that the fight must continue.
“What do we mean when we say we want justice?” Barbara Ransby, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, asked the crowd.
It wasn’t about the conviction of a single police officer, she said. The road to justice was a long one, and their demands — including ending poverty, prisons and state violence — were much larger than one case.
“We’ve got to think bigger than that,” she said. “We’ve got to dream bigger than that.”