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Pastors call for strike, ‘peace in streets’—but not calm—if Van Dyke acquitted

Activist William Calloway stands with pastors and others in Quinn Chapel AME church Monday evening | Adam Thorp/Sun-Times

A group of black pastors and activists want protest, policy action, and a daylong strike of all city workers — but no violence — if a jury fails to convict Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald.

William Calloway, an activist from South Shore, and a large group of African-American pastors from across the city gathered Monday at Quinn Chapel AME church to outline their plans, which include a “rapid response” team of volunteers to deploy in the wake of a verdict.

Quinn Chapel Pastor James Moody laid out the group’s goals: “One: a just and godly verdict. Two: peace in the streets. Three: the protection of lives and property, whatever that verdict may be. And finally, we’re praying for sustainable changes, legal changes, that would prevent something like this from happening again.”

Calloway called for the city to “rise up” if there is anything less than a murder conviction.

“We do not want people to be calm. Because there’s no reason to be calm if somebody who shot somebody 16 times is acquitted for murder,” Calloway said. “What we are asking the community of the city of Chicago is to be non-violent and non-destructive.”

“We seen what happened in Ferguson. We seen what happened in Baltimore. All of us being Chicagoans, we know what Chicago is capable of,” Calloway added. “These are our communities that we live in. We don’t want the destruction of our communities.”

Calloway said no elected officials or Chicago police officers had spoken to him about contingency planning after the trial.

Should Van Dyke be acquitted, they will demand the passage of the Laquan McDonald Act, which would allow for the recall of Chicago’s mayor, the Cook County state’s attorney, and any Chicago alderman.

They will also call for changes to the contract between Chicago and its police officers by, for example, eliminating the waiting period police have before giving their account of shootings for the record. They also believe federal civil rights charges should be pursued against Van Dyke.

Calloway said pastors and other volunteers will respond in four areas: “rapid mobilization; sustainable, peaceful demonstration; media and narrative; and … policy and social changes.”

Calloway has said predictions of violence are not accurate. Van Dyke’s defense attorneys raised that prospect as part of an effort to have the case moved out of Chicago, saying in a court filing that it was “abundantly clear” there would be rioting in the case of acquittal. Calloway called the characterization “incorrect and misleading.”

Calloway filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May 2015 which eventually forced the release of the video that showed Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times. He has also been a lead organizer in protests outside the courthouse over the course of the trial.