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Black Lives Matter marchers blast Van Dyke sentence

Latrice Hicks and son Jeffrey Williams march Monday to protest the 81-month sentence for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the killing of Laquan McDonald. | Max Herman / For the Sun-Times

Hundreds of hardy protesters marched on a chilly Monday afternoon on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to protest the 81-month sentence that former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke got last week for killing Laquan McDonald.

“They lock us up, they shoot us down. Ain’t no justice in this town!”  Black Lives Matters demonstrators shouted as they paraded south through Washington Park in sub-20-degree temperatures.

Latrice Hicks, 44, said she and her 24-year-old son, Jeffrey Williams, were walking in honor of Martin Luther King.

But they were also remembering another Martin — Trayvon Martin.

Hicks said she and her son marched in 2013 in Chicago to protest the fatal shooting of 17-year old Martin by a neighborhood watch coordinator, George Zimmerman, in Florida.

Zimmerman was charged with murder but was acquitted at trial on self-defense grounds.

Black Lives Matter demonstrators march Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. | Max Herman / For the Sun-Times

Martin’s killing sparked the national Black Lives Matter movement after a California activist posted this Facebook message: “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter, Black Lives Matter.”

Hicks, of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, said, “Not much has changed” since the Trayvon Martin case.

She said she was appalled that Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan didn’t give Van Dyke a stiffer sentence for second-degree murder in the 2014 killing of McDonald.

She also could not believe that another Cook County judge acquitted three Chicago police officers earlier last week after a trial for allegedly covering up for Van Dyke.

“We can’t just march,” Hicks said. “We have to exercise our voting rights to put in a politician that works for us and believes in us and our lives.”

Anton Ford, 44, of Hyde Park, said there was a “commonality” between the Trayvon Martin and Van Dyke trials.

“Police officers can do whatever they want,” Ford said. “And we’re here to say they can’t, and we’re watching and we will push back.”

On Friday, the president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police had taken the witness stand during Van Dyke’s sentencing hearing to urge Gaughan not to hand down a lengthy sentence “if justice is served.”

In their closing arguments, prosecutors had asked Gaughan to impose a sentence in the range of 18 to 20 years.

On Monday afternoon, dozens of police officers monitored the Black Lives Matter demonstration but kept their distance. About 200 people showed up for the march.

Amara Enyia was one of the few political candidates to make an appearance.

Enyia, director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, recently received a $400,000 donation from hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper. Kanye West has contributed another $200,000 to her campaign.

Enyia said “people see an imbalance” between the 81-month sentence for Van Dyke and the 84-year sentence a judge recently gave the man convicted of the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. She was shot to death in 2013 a week after she performed at events for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Enyia urged people who are “concerned about how justice is delivered in the city” to go to the polls. She pointed out that voters took the rare step of ousting a Cook County judge from office in the last election after a “massive organizing effort.”

“What it did is make people much more aware of who is sitting on the bench and their track records and their histories — and that we can do something about it,” Enyia said.