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Sixteen shots, one cover-up, and three years in prison later, a killer cop will soon be back on the streets.
It seems like just yesterday, millions of people across Chicago and the rest of the country breathed a sigh of relief that a White cop was held accountable for killing a Black child in cold blood like an animal. Fox 32 reports that former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke will be released early from prison on Feb. 3 after serving a little more than three years in jail for the merciless killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The so-called justice system may be content to let Van Dyke off the hook, but Chicago activists are calling for a city-wide transit system shutdown to demand prison time that actually fits the savage crime.
In 2018, Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery, one for each shot the officer fired into the Black teen’s back as he walked away. Prosecutors sought 18-20 years, but he only received a sentence of six years. He still qualified for early release with good behavior and will be paroled after serving half of that time. According to ABC 7, community organizers are calling for a shutdown of Chicago’s trains and buses if Van Dyke isn’t charged with federal civil rights violations similar to the ones that followed Dereck Chauvin’s state conviction for the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd.
Chicago activist William Calloway called the sentence “a slap in the face to us and a slap on the wrist” for the corrupt cop. Calloway helped make the brutal police dashcam footage of the shooting public and pushed to reopen the investigation after CPD cleared the shooting as justified.
“We want Local 241 and Local 308 — the trains and the buses — we want them to stand with us. We want them to stand in solidarity with us,” Calloway said.
During the press conference held over MLK Weekend, Bishop Tavis Grant from the Rainbow Push Coalition referenced the legacy of protests and bus boycotts that have been effective since the Civil Rights Movement.
“We know the power of boycotts. We know the power of sit-ins. We know the power of marching,” Bishop Grant said.
While a shutdown of the city’s transportation seems like a drastic system disruption, McDonald’s killing and subsequent cover-up prove that our systems are already fundamentally flawed. Van Dyke didn’t just nearly get away with murder. Three of his fellow crooked cops were acquitted for covering up the shooting the day before his conviction. It’s not surprising that Van Dyke is the only officer found guilty of an on-duty shooting in 50 years, but it’s not nearly enough.
“I have always asked for justice and not revenge,” said Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s uncle and the pastor of Grace Memorial Baptist Church. “We got as much justice you could get with the players that were there at the time he was on trial. The system needs to be changed, it needs to be overhauled.”
Chicago activists, community leaders, and clergy are fighting for those changes today and asking transit workers to join their calls for justice if federal prosecutors refuse to hear them.