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Activist who helped force release of Laquan video will run for 5th Ward alderman

William Calloway

Community activist William Calloway speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Court Building Oct. 5 after a jury found Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated battery in the 2014 shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald. | Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

A community activist who helped force Mayor Rahm Emanuel to release the Laquan McDonald shooting video set his sights Monday on the City Council.

William Calloway declared his candidacy for 5th Ward alderman against five-term incumbent Leslie Hairston.

Calloway was one of two men who filed the Freedom of Information request that ultimately prompted a judge to order Emanuel to release dashcam video that showed Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke firing sixteen shots into the body of the black teenager.

After Van Dyke was convicted last month of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery, Calloway put incumbent black aldermen on notice.

“No black elected official showed up for us. It was just us. Our generation showed up,” Calloway said then.

“The City Council that voted for the settlements have to be removed. … Today, justice was delivered for Laquan McDonald, but it doesn’t stop there…These other aldermen have to go. No black alderman showed up for this.”

Calloway is coming off a losing campaign for state representative in the 25th District. He could not be reached for comment on his decision to challenge Hairston.

African-American aldermen have been harshly criticized for signing off on a $5 million settlement to the family of Laquan McDonald — before a lawsuit had even been filed — without asking tough enough questions or seeing the incendiary shooting video.

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Contacted Monday, Hairston initially defended the $5 million settlement.

“I did my job as a Council member. Hindsight is always 20-20,” she said. “The families decide what the settlement is. It is our job as legislators to approve the recommendations of what the parties agree to. Aldermen are not part of the settlement negotiations.”

A few minutes later, Hairston called back to say that she had been reminded by her publicist that she was “out of town” and, therefore, did not attend the City Council meeting where aldermen signed off on the settlement.

“I have nothing to defend. I wasn’t there. I’m just setting the record straight,” she said.

Last month, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, was asked about the bold threats of political retaliation made against black aldermen accused of participating in a “coverup” of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

Some of those aldermen were re-elected in 2015 with help from hefty campaign contributions from an Emanuel-allied super-PAC.

“There was no cover-up. We knew there was a horrible situation that occurred. The words that the corporation counsel used was that, in all likelihood, the officer was gonna get indicted and probably go to jail. He was absolutely correct,” Sawyer said then.

“It was prudent for us to settle that case fast because that $5 million settlement could have been a $50 million verdict – or even worse. We have to balance the interests of our citizenry and also be financial stewards. It doesn’t sound like a pleasant job – and it’s not. But it’s the job we’re tasked to do, and we did that. If people think there’s a better way to do that without putting the city into bankruptcy, please let me know.”