Activists call for federal charges against Jason Van Dyke

During a rainy rally in Federal Plaza on the sixth anniversary of Laquan McDonald’s death, a host of speakers called on John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to charge Jason Van Dyke.

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Jahmal Cole speaks about injustice against Laquan McDonald during a “Justice for Laquan” rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

On the sixth anniversary of Laquan McDonald’s death, a coalition of activists gathered across the street from the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Tuesday night to call on Chicago’s top federal prosecutor to bring civil rights charges against convicted former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

During a rainy rally in Federal Plaza organized by Operation Good Trouble and Black Millennial Resistance, a host of speakers called on John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to charge Van Dyke.

A jury found Van Dyke guilty in October 2018 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for the shooting death of the 17-year-old McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke in January 2019 to 81 months in prison, though he is expected to serve only a little more than three years.

“We want the U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch to file federal civil rights charges on Jason Van Dyke immediately,” said activist and former aldermanic candidate William Calloway. “Not next year when the election cycle is over. Not next month. We’re talking about right now.”

“Eighty-one months is not enough,” Calloway added. “That’s a slap in the face.”

Speakers specifically pointed to the Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law statute. According to the FBI, a person convicted under the law could face punishment ranging from a fine to life in prison.

McDonald’s murder set into motion a series of wholesale changes within Chicago’s power structures.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel — under criticism that his administration worked to bury the now-infamous video — fired former Chicago Police Department Supt. Garry McCarthy.

Former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez lost her reelection bid after she waited until the video’s court-ordered release to bring charges against the former Chicago cop.

The U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the CPD’s practices and found the department engaged in a pattern of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch blamed that partially on “severely deficient training procedures” and “accountability systems.”

The department has sought to implement a series of reforms, and a federal consent decree governing those reforms was entered in 2019. However, the independent monitor charged with overseeing the CPD’s progress said in June that the department missed 70% of its requirements in the prior reporting period.

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