By Aryn Braun, Thomas Vogel and Bian Elkhatib
Video by Emiliana Molina and Brooke Rayford
Activist groups gathered at City Hall Wednesday to galvanize support for coming weekend protests. They criticized City Council’s Black Caucus, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for failing to respond effectively to the death of Laquan McDonald.
Representatives from several organizations including One Chicago, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and The Revolution Club of Chicago assembled outside the Mayor’s fifth floor offices intending to speak with city officials, though no meeting occurred. Several parents of shooting victims were also present.
Mark Carter, acting as a spokesman for the group, demanded city officials assign a special prosecutor to handle Jason Van Dyke’s criminal case, meet with President Barack Obama to discuss racial tension and emphasis community-building in Chicago.
“These elected officials, they will not have a smooth ride in their next elections,” said Carter. “We will unseat every single politician in this city until we get results.”
Carter was also present at a 10 a.m. press conference at City Hall, called by the City Council’s Black Caucus.
“His time has come. We need to have new leadership at the top,” Sawyer said. “This tape, as horrific as it is, I’m hoping it will be a catalyst for change.”
Sawyer also maintained his support for continued demonstrations but stressed that the protests must remain peaceful.
During the press conference Carter held an iPad displaying graphic autopsy photos of Laquan McDonald. He claimed the aldermen had seen the dash-cam video before signing off on a $5 million settlement with the family of Laquan McDonald.
“They wanted to make the people think they fought for this child.” Carter said.
When asked, Carter refused to reveal where he obtained the photos.
Protesters rally at Mayor’s office
Later at City Hall, activists echoed the caucus’ call for a leadership change, but condemned the aldermen for only expressing support once it was politically beneficial. Fed up with the status quo, demonstrators threatened more protests if their demands aren’t met.
“We’re taking 30 days of action, and the place we’re starting is the Magnificent Mile, the Chicago Board of Trade,” said Carter.
Many protesters were impassioned, invoking personal experience to express their dissatisfaction with the city.
“We are already black, that gives us an X on our back. Then we’re young black men, that’s two. And then we stand up for our rights, that’s the third one,” said Quovaeis Green, one of the demonstrators at City Hall.
Laman Reccord, a 16-year-old activist and student at Chicago Vocational Career Academy near Calumet Heights on the far South Side, began a quiet crescendo of chanting after the demonstration ended.
“What if that was your son that was 17 years old that got shot 16 times? What if that was your grandson? You didn’t have to put that baby to rest,” said Reccord. “I am Laquan McDonald, and I will not stop fighting. I will not stop protesting, because we need transparency now.”
Black Youth Project organizer and poet Malcolm London, accused of punching a police officer during the Laquan McDonald protests Tuesday night, walked out of the Cook County Department of Corrections a free man on Wednesday, after prosecutors dropped aggravated battery charges.
Before the bond hearing, a group of about 45 protesters rallied outside the courthouse and called for his release.
“We won’t be at peace until Malcolm is released,” the crowd chanted. They held signs reading “#FreeMalcolmLondon” and “Free Malcolm, Fire McCarthy.”
Edward Ward, who protested with London on Tuesday after the release of the McDonald video, said he doesn’t believe the Chicago Tribune photo of London assaulting the police officer is accurate.
“A picture tells a thousand words. There was a scuffle between police officers and protesters.” Ward said he believes London was charged because he is a leader.
Inside the courthouse, Judge Peggy Chiampas asked a packed room, mostly consisting of BYP protesters, to stay quiet multiple times.
Jasamine Harris, a member of Fearless Leading by the Youth, said she thought the judge’s warnings were unnecessary.
“The way she says things, because it’s a black case, dealing with black youth, she probably felt like she needed to be more aggressive,” Harris said.
London, wearing a black T-shirt that said “unapologetically black” on the back, didn’t speak as he stood in front of Judge Chiampas with his hands behind his back.
After the charges were dropped, the protesters left the room and raised their fists as they walked through the courthouse hallway. Their cheering drew the ire of the sheriffs, who threatened to hold people in contempt of court.
Outside, the cheering continued, with chants of “We love you” and “I believe that we will win.”
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For protestors, the release of London is just the beginning. Charles Preston, an organizer with BYP100, said Mayor Rahm Emanuel must be held accountable.
“The mayor doesn’t care about this city. He doesn’t care about us. He doesn’t care about the black community. Every time the black community has needs, they have not been met by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. At all,” Preston said.