In the hours preceding last night’s release of the Laquan McDonald video, leaders across the city took to network news mics to urge a peaceful, albeit firm, response to less than seven minutes of footage that has rocked the nation.
Within hours of the Chicago Police Department releasing the video it had been telecast on all of the city’s local news stations and featured prominently on national media platforms like CNN, the New York Times, Fox News and the Huffington Post. And so were the protests, which were largely contained to the city’s Loop and Near West Side communities.
According to media reports, Chicago police noted that they arrested five people during the overnight demonstrations. According to a representative from the 15th police district on the West Side, however, there were no video-related incidents reported last night. A representative from the 11th District police station said over the phone that, while she wasn’t aware of any disturbances or demonstrations, she wouldn’t formally know until more information came in.
On yesterday afternoon, before the video was released, clergy members, activists and elected officials held a spate of press conferences urging residents to respond peacefully to the footage.
“I want to speak to the young people who are frustrated, who are feeling violated,” said Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, during a Nov. 24 press conference at MacArthur’s Restaurant in Austin. “We feel your voices. We feel it loud and clear. We are praying that you turn your pain into power. We’re praying that you don’t turn the city upside down.”
But at a separate meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Nov. 23, Acree said that “protests are imminent,” according to a DNAinfo report. “If there were no protests, that would mean we had become immune to these matters.”
Acree and other leaders were intent on distinguishing between peaceful, justified actions — which many feel are necessary — and violent, unjustified behaviors that can do more harm than good.
Austin activist and former 29th Ward aldermanic candidate Zerlina Smith said that the city’s release of the videos was a “ploy” by the mayor, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and other city leaders to “force us to … tear up our communities.”
“We’re going to continue to march peacefully, practice restorative justice and vote these people out of office,” she said, during a Nov. 24 press conference convened by Rev. Jesse Jackson at 41st and Pulaski in Archer Heights, near the spot where McDonald was shot.
Smith said she’ll work with other activists and community leaders to direct people to demonstrations in the Loop and to hone their focus on much larger targets. She reinforced Father Michael Pfleger’s suggestion that people boycott shopping on Black Friday.
“We’re going to stick it to their pockets,” she said.
Some West Side institutions, such as Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd., are taking extra precautions in light of the anticipated demonstrations in the Loop.
The high school sent out an email today alerting downtown businesses that employ students who are part of its corporate work study program that the school would send buses to pick the interns up earlier than usual.
And Chicago Public Schools notified parents that they’ll offer counseling services to students who may have witnessed the video.