Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Chicago Remembers Laquan McDonald

Today's world is becoming increasingly more violent with increasingly less and less regard for human life. Of course, this is reflected in the U.S., with its ready-made access to weapons and insatiable desire to control markets, materials and resources.

Our cities have become overrun with story after story of people being brutally killed. And instead of protecting the communities under which they are supposed to serve, parts of the police force have run amok, contributing to the violence in our society instead of reducing it. As many people have previously observed, law enforcement exists primarily, if not exclusively, to protect the interests of the wealthy elements of our society. However, it is also clear that there are elements of the police force which harbor views of white supremacy and have no value and the utmost contempt for the lives of black people.

It is against this backdrop that we must examine the case Laquan McDonald. By now most readers are familiar with the details of the case. McDonald was shot 16 times in October of 2014 by Chicago Police Department officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke incredulously has remained on the force despite having 17 citizen complaints filed against him according to the University of Chicago and the Invisible Institute. More significantly, their study reveals a patterns of reckless behavior among many CPD members with tens of thousands of complaints having been lodged. Less than 5% of the cases resulted in disciplinary actions against cops.  Van Dyke's transgressions have included racial slurs and excessive force with their being a blue wall of silence around him.

The State of Illinois State Attorney for Cook County Anita Alvarez refused to file charges for over a year against Van Dyke. However, after a judge authorized the release of the video, Alvarez, who is facing strong challenge for re-election in March, changed her tune.

The Mayor's office in Chicago has also been complicit in the cover-up. Rahm Emanuel, who has been vilified as being out of touch with the concerns of many communities in Chicago, tried to prevent the video from being released. However, when he was overruled, Emanuel suddenly switched gears trying to cover his ass, said that Van Dyke's behavior was criminal and that he would be charged with murder.

The dash camera of one of the police cars that responded to reports of McDonald having stolen property contained no audio. Van Dyke, one of the eight officers who responded, was the only one who fired his weapon. Other officers on the scene did not see the need to use force. McDonald was not moving in the direction of Van Dyke or threatening him in any way.

According to Charlene Carruthers, National Director of the Black Youth Project, Emanuel has tried to meet with leaders in the black community who work with young people, concerned about how they might respond now that the video has been released. She points out that this misses the point. It is the Chicago Police Department that needs to learn to be peaceful.

When asked about what needs to change, Carruthers mentions the need for "the massive divestment and defunding of the police and investment in black communities" where the need in Chicago is the greatest. Beyond this, she notes the high incarceration rates and criminalization of minor transgressions like the possession of marijuana.

Indeed, she is right. The time for change is long overdue.

No comments: