Chicago residents look for hope after release of video showing shooting death of 17-year-old
Officer Jason Van Dyke charged with first-degree murder in Laquan McDonald's death
Some called for changes to police, others want black community to vote or curb own violence
Marlin Daniels was driving when police pulled him over and said they were tracking cars like his that had been reported stolen.
He suspects they pulled him over for a different reason: because he is black.
“It happens,” he says with the despair of someone who has shared the story more times than he wishes to count.
All too often, he says. Ask anyone.
“Every minority, well, black man that I know, had an issue with police officers,” Daniels says.
But things still shock him, he says. Tuesday night was one of those times. He said he couldn’t believe it when he watched the Chicago police video showing the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the length of time it took for officials to release it. Thirteen months to be exact.
“Why does it take that long to get this information out?” he asks, noting that in his 10 years of living in Chicago, he’s seen enough incidents that he expected the case would’ve been taken more seriously from the start.
Daniels has a lot of friends who are cops and retired cops who have no issues with race or excessive force. He points to the “small percentage that spoils it for the whole bunch.” He spoke to friends and family like others in the black community after the video was released. That conversation, he said, “wasn’t nice, I’ll put it like that.”
“We come to expect this from Chicago police,” he says. “It’s a way of life sometimes. But at least something is happening.”
He hopes the “something,” that Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who shot McDonald 16 times, was charged with first-degree murder would spark a conversation. But justice?
“It will change [things] a little,” he says. “But I think the officer is going to get off.”
“We’re helping them to kill us”
Darlene Perkins wants the black community to wake up.
She saw the video and was hurt like many others – saying it’s a feeling that cuts deep through her bones and picks at the scabs of old wounds.
“I was hurting from a long way back because our people have been suffering this racism since before I even was born, since slavery, over 400 years ago,” the 61-year-old says says.
But she also believes you can’t just blame the police for the recent spate of officer-involved shootings or attention to gun violence. Especially not in Chicago. And she says if there is to be real change, the black community has to look inward.
“What I don’t like is there’s so much black on black crime,” she says. “So how can you speak totally out against other people, but we have to – because we’re helping them to kill us.”
She recalls an old saying: “It’s a mighty poor dog that won’t wag its own tail.”
Perkins says it would help if the black community not only united by boycotting certain stores and shopping at black retailers, despite the costs, but by doing more to empower their community for long-term change.
“Get up and get an education, put those games down. Put the phone down, read something and come out [and make a difference],” she says, her voice steadily growing more intense.
Don’t get her wrong. She and her friends and family have choice words and thoughts for officers, too.
She wishes cops would think of their families as they showed up on the scene of an incident: “Would you want someone to kill your own children like that? Put yourself in the place of the victim.”
The first conversations she had after seeing the video?
“Lord, when is this going to end?” Perkins tells CNN. “We don’t want to be afraid. We are not going to be silenced and shut in the house by fear because the next thing that happens is fear. You thinking if you’re walking down the street the police going to pull you over for walking.”
She has more she wishes she could say to be open and honest about the conversations she has in her community, but she says people wouldn’t take it the right way.
“We have a whole lot of deep conversations – stuff that I can’t even say … because it might sound like ‘Oh, they being racist too.’ But the minute black folks stand up for their rights, all the sudden its racism.”
There’s an opportunity here for both sides, she says. The black community must do theirs to help change the cycle of violence and police must honor their badge.
“They have to have some pride and respect for their uniform, for what it really stands for – to serve and to protect. Not to kill, steal and destroy,” she says.
Police shooting conversations like ‘a broken record’
Prince Coakley, 35, says he’s talked about Laquan McDonald just like he’s talked about all of the other black teens being killed at the hands of police, but it is the same as always.
“It’s a broken record,” he says, wanting to know when actual change will happen.
He believes a more diverse police force is the place to start. In white communities, the officers are white, in Hispanic neighborhoods, he contends the only reason there is diversity is because of the language barrier.
“Or that would be all white,” he says. “In our communities, we barely see black policemen.”
The video of McDonald being shot was just another reminder of how he believes the mindset of police departments – not every single one, he admits, but many – feel about the black community.
“As a whole the mindset toward African American youth…that’s why they’re on edge. And it’s just not in Chicago; it’s nationwide” he says.
Protesting is fine, he says, as he understands the need to express frustration. But he also believes a more strategic plan could yield more effective results.
“We have to take stands when it’s time to vote,” he says. “We may not have a strong presence in America, but we have a strong presence in Chicago as far as our vote.”
“We have to, you know, get out and unite, and the leaders have to stop selling out for money. It’s about their agenda and not about the people.”
There shouldn’t ‘be a second, third or fourth time’
Chris Jones feels like enough should be enough.
“After so many of these police brutality situations, you would think that someone would have some empathy and be able to [bring people] together and stop this disheartening violence,” he says.
But then again, when he talks with his friends, they all feel like nobody cares whether black people are being killed by police.
“If they did, there wouldn’t be a second, third or fourth time,” he says. “We just feel like nobody cares. If you’ve got a heart and you’re genuine and care about people … you wouldn’t do this. And if you have some type of power, you would stop it from happening.”
His personal interactions with cops have been only for minor traffic violations, he says. But he also says conversations never feel quite right.
“I feel like they talk to me like I’m a child or something or like I’m not an adult or human like them,” he says.
But he also has hope for the future. That if both sides worked a little bit on how they worked together, maybe something could be different.
“We all need to be empathetic towards everyone, have a little bit more love and compassion and just come together and realize we’re all humans,” he says. “We all have feelings and emotions, but at the same time, you have to be able to control those when you are in a place of power.”
Police officers ‘are like a gang here’
For 23-year-old Columbia College student Elliott Wills, this is personal.
He says as a black male in certain parts of Chicago, you just get used to being targeted by the police.
“Police officers [are] constantly pulling people over on the side blocks and unlawfully searching them and unlawfully detaining them, you know just doing whatever they want to,” he tells CNN. “You know, they’re like a gang here.”
It’s a popular phrase, one even chanted on the streets as protesters took to Michigan Avenue in the city on Tuesday night.
They repeated “16 shots” as they calmly walked down the main road, and “We hear the shots bang, the police are a gang.”
Wills says he was arrested last week sitting in his car and eventually charged with simple assault. He doesn’t say it with shame. He says it’s all part of the norm.
“It’s something you get used to as you get older in the city. Honestly when you travel outside the city, you notice a big difference. It’s not like how it is here. People walk outside, and it’s a sense of tension and you really feel it in the air when you’re hear versus being in California or somewhere.”
There’s a divide he says that’s certainly noticeable when you cross from the North Side, which he describes as “a chill environment,” into the South Side, which Wills likens to “a police state.”
“It’s very unjust; we’re modern slaves out here, and there should be change so I’m very adamant about this,” Wills proclaims.
He’s proud to be out on the streets taking part in peaceful protests, and he hopes it will build awareness and stop another incident from happening.
“Chicago is in a bad place right now,” he says. “I just want it to get better. This is my home.”
Police murder ‘black people with impunity’
Jay Travis has lived on the South Side of Chicago for 43 years and knows this story all too well – a young black male is killed by police and nothing is done about it. She hopes this time will be different.
Travis loves her city and the Bronzeville neighborhood she calls home. And that’s exactly why she says she’s was out protesting. She took to the streets of Chicago on the night the video was released to support the young black leaders in this community that protested in the lead up to the video’s release – which she believes are likely the only reason the Chicago officer was charged.
She believes that kind of activism from the youth of the city and a continued push for change can make a difference – and a statement – that Chicago won’t let another black person die at the hands of police this way.
“We love our neighborhoods, but unfortunately this has been a persistent problem in terms of excessive force being used by the police and the murder of black people with impunity by the police,” Travis says. “So we’re out of here for love for our city, we’re out of here pushing for change … and we’re out here because we value the lives of black people that live throughout the city”
CNN’s Orlando Ruiz, Jason Kravarik and Ryan Young reported from Chicago, and CNN’s Mallory Simon wrote from New York.