People who are likely to react violently to the profane video showing a Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times are probably too young to remember the night Chicago burned.
When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, cities like Chicago erupted in looting and rioting.
While the public housing development where my family lived was calm, the fires destroyed businesses on the South and West sides of the city.
Word of the violence spread as rapidly as the fires.
Although my soldier boyfriend was worlds away fighting in Vietnam, he sent me an audio-taped message warning me to keep off the West Side.
By the time the fires subsided, a large swath of Chicago looked like the terrain of a war-ravaged country.
What was even worse was knowing that any point protesters were trying to make was lost in absurdity. It simply made no sense that the killing of a man of peace was marked by looting and wanton destruction.
Once you’ve lived through something like that, you don’t want to have to live through it again.
On Tuesday night, hundreds of protesters — some young, some older — showed the rest of the country that you can engage in civil disobedience without being destructive.
Frankly, there were doubts.
Before the video was released, McDonald’s family had pleaded with protesters to engage in peaceful demonstrations.
“No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out we urge you to be peaceful. Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that,” the family said in a written statement distributed by attorneys.
Conrad Worrill, director of the Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University, however, said he did not expect young activists to get out of hand.
“If there are riots, we haven’t learned much as a people, and we’ve allowed a few people to infiltrate and misdirect a movement. What we should do is to withdraw our economic support for the people who oppress us,” he said.
“There will still be those who would try to use the shocking video to stir up hatred between communities of color and the Chicago Police Department.”
Before things go too far, it would be wise to remember that once the fires are put out and the broken glass is swept up, these outside agitators will go back to their peaceful neighborhoods and suburbs.
Instead of smashing and grabbing, this is time for black leaders — old school and new breed — to put their heads together and come up with a strategy to overthrow our failed system of police accountability.
One cop, Jason Van Dyke, pulled the trigger.
But that one cop is representative of all bad cops.
Now that we’ve seen the video and have compared it to the statements made by a police representative after the shooting, it is fair to wonder if police lied about other fatal shooting incidents as well.
Because of the video, Van Dyke has now been charged with first-degree murder.
Because of the video, Laquan McDonald is more than a statistic buried in obscurity.
Because of the video, this is a clear victory for every person who demanded justice for McDonald.
Concerned citizens can’t afford to mess this up.