Protesters arrested calling for federal charges against Van Dyke: ‘We’re gonna shut down the entire city of Chicago’

The protesters who were detained were among a larger group who delivered a letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch demanding federal civil rights charges against the former officer, who was released from state custody hours earlier.

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U.S. Marshals confront protesters inside the Federal Building on Thursday in the Loop. The protesters were seeking federal charges for Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who killed Laquan McDonald.

U.S. Marshals confront protesters inside the Federal Building on Thursday in the Loop. The protesters were seeking federal charges for Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who killed Laquan McDonald.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A group of protesters was arrested while demonstrating Thursday at the Federal Building in the Loop as they called for federal charges against former Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke, who was released from a state prison hours earlier after serving just over three years for the killing of Laquan McDonald.

The nine protesters who were detained around 5 p.m. were among several dozen people who gathered in Federal Plaza earlier in the day with former mayoral candidate Ja’mal Green, Rev. Michael Pfleger and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and delivered a letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch demanding civil rights charges against Van Dyke.

After a dozen protesters locked arms inside the lobby of the Federal Building, some were seen being handcuffed by U.S. marshals. The group included Green, community organizer William Calloway and Justin Blake, whose nephew, Jacob, was shot and seriously wounded in August 2020 by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparking renewed unrest following the police killing of George Floyd earlier that year in Minneapolis.

Thursday’s demonstration appeared to be a planned act of civil disobedience amid the public outcry over Van Dyke’s release and previous sentencing.

Elorm Blake, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals office, confirmed that some protesters were taken into custody. She said they appeared before a judge Thursday evening but she couldn’t immediately provide additional information.

The arrested protesters called themselves the “Laquan Nine” and face federal charges, Calloway said. They were released before 8 p.m. Thursday and are due back in court Tuesday.

McDonald’s grandmother, Tracey Hunter, one of the most outspoken advocates for new charges against Van Dyke, was released after initially being detained with the group. 

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Tracey Hunter, Laquan McDonald’s grandmother, speaks to reporters on Feb. 3, 2022, after being detained during a demonstration calling for federal charges against former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the 2014 killing of her grandson.

Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times

“They arrested and locked up some of our comrades because we’re fighting for our human rights,” Hunter told reporters, insisting that Van Dyke’s sentence was inadequate. “We should be able to be treated like humans because we are humans. 

“And since they don’t, we’re gonna take over the streets and we’re gonna shut down the entire city of Chicago until we get the justice that we deserve,” she said as the group continued demonstrating downtown.

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Van Dyke was convicted in 2018 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet he fired at 17-year-old McDonald in an on-duty shooting in 2014 in Archer Heights. The shooting — and the apparent suppression of dash-cam video of the fatal encounter — sent shockwaves through Chicago and led former Mayor Rahm Emanuel to forgo seeking a third term in office.

Before tensions boiled over Thursday, Rev. Jackson insisted “the crime and time does not correspond,” referring to the 81-month sentence Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan handed down to Van Dyke. Ultimately, Van Dyke served about half that because of time credited for good behavior.

Pfleger claimed Van Dyke was “slapped on the wrist” as he pressed for information on the federal investigation into potential civil rights violations in connection to McDonald’s slaying. Similar calls have mounted in recent days, with U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth pressing Attorney General Merrick Garland for an update on the probe and the NAACP calling on him to pursue charges.

Pfleger made a similar appeal, pushing for a “full investigation” and for Van Dyke to be federally indicted.

“This is about Laquan McDonald and this about Jason Van Dyke,” Pfleger went on. “But this is much bigger than both of them. Justice is on trial right now. Justice is on trial in America.” 

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