Mayor Rahm Emanuelon Mondaydescribed a white police officer’s decision to fire 16 shots into the body of black teenager Laquan McDonald as “hideous” with “no justification,” even though the mayor claimed he has not seen the dashboard camera video a judge has ordered the city to release.
Emanuel passed judgment on the actions of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke as he urged Chicagoans to engage in peaceful protests in response to the video.
“This officer didn’t uphold the law. In my view, he took the law into his own hands. He didn’t build the trust we want to see. And he wasn’t about providing safety and security. So at every point, he violated what we entrust,” Emanuel said.
“When you’re entrusted as a police officer to provide safety, build trust and uphold the law and you violate it, you’re going to be, in my view, held accountable for that action. … Whether you see it, hear about it or read about it, I would express that this is … also a violation of your conscience and it is wrong and it was hideous.”
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Emanuel spoke before holding a series of conference calls and meetingson Mondayafternoon with black community stakeholders — from small groups of ministers, young activists, and business leaders, to members of the City Council’s Black Caucus.
“I’m definitely concerned,” said the Rev. Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn, after exiting the pastors’ meeting to a horde of local and national media camped outside the mayor’s office.
“If the mayor can say that it’s a ‘hideous’ video, and he hasn’t seen it yet, I can only imagine what some young black guy on the South Side and on the West Side of Chicago — whose been frustrated about his economic situation, frustrated and angry about his educational situation, frustrated and angry about his living conditions — I can only imagine how he’s going to feel when he sees another young man who looks like him get shot down and basically murdered,” Brooks said.
Grim-faced, the Rev. Michael Pfleger declined to speak to reporters, saying only: “I want to fire two cops,” before stepping onto the elevator.
Last week, a judge ordered the city to release the video by the close of businessWednesday. Emanuel was on a brief trade mission to China when the order came down. But after months of resisting the release, the mayor’s office did an about-face and decided not to appeal.
Returning home to growing concern that the release of the video would trigger the often violent demonstrations that followed the death of black men and teens at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and New York City, Emanuel began drumming the message: Feel free to exercise your First Amendment rights, but do it in a peaceful way.
“People have a right and should exercise their First Amendment rights. Do it in a focused way, a responsible way so your voices and ideas are heard. I want all stakeholders — whether you’re the mayor, a religious leader, community leader, an educator or a small business owner — to exercise both your residency and your citizenship in Chicago,” Emanuel told reporters.
“Which is why I’ve called for us, corresponding with what the judge did, to bring healing together … I want us to work together to bring what we want, which is the city to have people exercise their First Amendment right, but do it in a responsible way and then have all of us move forward,” he said.
A handful of activists who got wind of the meetings they were not invited to came to protest. Lamon Reccord, 16, who is with Chicago Votes and Black Lives Matter, was among a group that came with picket signs.
“I’m here for an answer. If we have to come down to these meetings, if we have to march, then we gotta do what we gotta do. Because you have to think about ‘What if that was your child that got shot 16 times?’ Reccord said. “There’s no telling how much of an eye opener this video will be to the city of Chicago. Would it have escalated to this had he been a different race?”
Wallace “Gator” Bradley of United In Peace, Inc., said those who got to meet with the mayor should question why the officer was still on the force 13 months later, and why he had yet to be prosecuted by the state’s attorney.
Earlier, Emanuel told reporters the officer had to remain on the force until the end of the criminal investigation, under the police union contract.
Ja’Mal Green of Skyrocketing Teens Corp., who was among 15 young activists that did meet with Emanuel, said neither the mayor nor others will be able to control reaction to a case that young Chicagoans view as a “modern-day Emmett Till.”
“A lot of people are going to go crazy in seeing this video,” Green said. “This video is definitely a modern-day Emmett Till, and from hearing everyone talk about it, it’s the most horrific video that we probably have seen in a long time.
“I can’t say what will happen, because I do not control people nor do I speak for all the neighborhoods in Chicago that will be impacted by this. But a lot of people will be outraged, and a lot of people will want our leaders to step up and say ‘We’ve got your back.’ And the culture of the Chicago Police Dept. has to be changed.”
Several young activist groups invited to meet with the mayor, includingBlack Lives Matter and Black Youth Project 100, turned down the invite, issuing a statement charging: “The Mayor’s office is calling on community leaders to control black people’s reaction to the execution. … It was important to deny this invitation to meet because we believe that the community has a right to respond as it sees fit.”