Laquan McDonald: Chicago Leaders Call for Peaceful Protest

Jesse Jackson at Laquon McDonald protest (Paul Beaty / Associated Press)
Paul Beaty / Associated Press

Protests have broken out all over Chicago as people gather to express outrage over the police shooting of an African American teenager, Laquon McDonald. The shooting happened in October 2014, but video of the incident was only released Tuesday evening.

During the afternoon, as protests were being planned, community leaders helping to plan the marches called for peaceful protests, in hopes that Chicago would not repeat the unrest seen in cities such as Ferguson, New York City and Philadelphia.

McDonald, 17, was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who had responded to the scene only some 30 seconds before opening fire.

“Chicago is on the tipping point,” the Rev. Roosevelt Watkins told Chicago’s WLS TV. “We could be just like Ferguson.”

“We want people to see the positive professional males that are in our community,” the Reverend continued.

“As incendiary as this video may be, and we’ve all heard the rumors, remain calm,” State Rep. Elgie Sims added. “Don’t incite violence in our community. Or exact violence on our community. Let’s use that energy in a positive way.”

Calling the shooting “hideous,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also called for peaceful protests.

“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 said.

For his part, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy warned protesters that the city would not tolerate rioting over McDonald’s shooting.

“People have right to be angry but they do not have right to commit criminal acts. We will be intolerant of criminal behavior,” McCarthy said on Tuesday.

But Reverend Jesse Jackson of Operation Push has called for the resignation of police superintendent McCarthy.

“I have high regard for McCarthy as a person, but his job, he’s lost credibility,” Rev. Jackson said. “The police department is no longer credible.”

Charlene Carruthers, the National Director of the Black Youth Project 100, said that while some are worried what the protesters will do, she is more worried about what the police are doing.

Carruthers said, “They’re very concerned with the city remaining peaceful, but unfortunately, the community, or the target, that is being told to remain peaceful is not the Chicago Police Department.”

For some time the city and police department fought demands that the dashcam video of the incident be released to the public.

This video is stark and shows the white officer shooting the teen who was walking away. It is known that the 17-year-old McDonald had a small knife in his hand, and police had ordered him to drop the weapon. The officer opened fire and continued to fire even after the teen had fallen barely moving to the ground.

The video is shocking and Chicagoans have struggled to see how the police can justify the shooting. It appears that authorities are not standing by the officer, as he has been indicted for first degree murder. Van Dyke maintains his innocence; he has had the support of the police union.

As she announced her intentions of charging the officer with murder, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said of the video, “It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling. This video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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