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Court hearing of cop charged in deadly shooting draws protestors

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad -The Final Call- | Last updated: Aug 16, 2017 - 10:13:58 PM

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Protesters surround Off. Jason Van Dyke as he exits Cook County Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

CHICAGO—Police officer Jason Van Dyke who was charged for shooting and killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was taken to a pre-trial hearing at the Cook County Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Aug. 11.

The Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) were among protestors that arrived at the courthouse early to witness the hearing.

“Sixteen shots and a cover-up!” protestors shouted, referring to the 16 times Off. Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald using as a defense that he “feared for his life.” He faces charges for first-degree murder, official misconduct and aggravated battery stemming from the October 20,  2014 shooting.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was under scrutiny from the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups for not releasing the dash-cam video of the fatal shooting of the teen.   A lawsuit, Freedom of Information Act request and court order eventually led the mayor to release the video November 24, 2015.

The Laquan McDonald shooting led to local as well as nationwide protests against police misconduct, abuse and shootings of young, Black men.

Frank Chapman of Chicago Alliance shared his thoughts about the many cases of young Blacks killed for questionable reasons by police officers.

“This has always been a major issue for us, a major priority,” he stated. “We know that the police killing unarmed Black people is not happenstance, an accident. We know that it’s a part of an ongoing conspiracy to keep our movement in check, keep our community under control.”

Activists outside courthouse during pre-trial hearing.

Mr. Chapman was among many protestors not allowed in the courtroom over concerns by the court. Activist William Calloway was not allowed simply for wearing a t-shirt that said “16 shots.”

Judge Vincent Gaughan conducted the hearing for nearly three hours. Among issues debated were whether Off. Van Dyke’s conversations with police union representatives were “privileged” and should not be used against him. The judge decided that Off. Van Dyke’s statements to union police were admissible. The next hearing is scheduled for September 7, 2017.

Protestor and community activist Zakiyyah S. Muhammad was not surprised by the delay for a conviction and sensed a pattern of insecurity during the pre-trial hearing. If convicted, Off. Van Dyke could face 20 years to life in prison.

“The system always works against us when one of theirs has killed a Black person unjustifiable. They always protect their own especially if it’s a police officer,” she stated.

In court, three Chicago Police Union representatives reported they didn’t recall information such as specific times or how many other officers were present during the night of the shooting.

“Until we dedicate our life to the cause, they’re gonna continue to mistreat us and dog us out the way they are doing with this Laquan McDonald case,” said Ms. Muhammad.

Nataki Rose of Chicago Alliance stated that she only wanted to see justice in the community and in the city of Chicago.

“If it [jury] doesn’t convict, it’s going to hurt the citizens of Chicago,” Mrs. Rose stated. “I hope we can heal together but as citizens and as a city, we got to see this through.”