At an Oct. 20 rally held outside of Chicago Police Department headquarters on the South Side, activists from all parts of the city demanded that state lawmakers pass legislation that would allow voters to recall Chicago’s mayors, aldermen and county state’s attorneys.
The proposed legislation, introduced on Oct. 19 by outgoing state Rep. Ken Dunkin (5th), is known as the LaQuan McDonald Act — named after the teenager who was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer in 2014. Dashcam video of McDonald’s murder was released by the city last November, but only after a court order.
Dunkin’s legislation is similar to a bill that was introduced last December by state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th), which would allow voters to recall Chicago mayors at least six months after their most recent term in office began.
The proposed LaQuan McDonald Act is largely identical to Ford’s proposal, but there are some differences. Most notably, unlike Ford’s proposal, Dunkin’s bill would allow voters to also recall aldermen and state’s attorneys.
In addition, the requirements for launching a petition to trigger the mayoral recall would be easier to meet. Ford’s proposal would require at least 15 percent of all of the citizens who voted for mayor to sign the recall petition, and at least 50 signatures must come from each ward. Dunkin’s proposal sets the minimum at 10 percent, and it doesn’t have the ward-based minimum requirement.
Ford’s legislation had its first reading on Jan. 13, 2016. It was sent to the Rules Committee, where it has been stuck ever since.
Dunkin didn’t sign on as a sponsor to Ford’s legislation, which was introduced around the time when Dunkin was facing pushback from many fellow state Democrats for not voting to override several of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget vetoes.
During the March 2016 primary, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan backed Dunkin’s challenger, Juliana Stratton, and Dunkin lost.
While Ford’s legislation gained several co-sponsors, Dunkin’s bill had none as of Oct. 21.
The organizers of Oct. 20 rally, which was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of McDonald’s death, set out to change that.
In his opening remarks, Rev. Kevin Jones, pastor of Kingdom Life Center, said Dunkin’s law was necessary to make sure what happened to Laquan McDonald wouldn’t happen with anyone else.
“We came out here for one reason and one reason only,” Jones said, “and that’s so the powers that be know that we’re not going to sit down anymore.”
Activist William Calloway, the rally’s primary organizer who worked to help bring the tape of McDonald’s shooting to light, had a similar message.
“You saw [the video],” Calloway said. “It could’ve been your son, it might be your son. I want you to holler at your local state representatives, because we’re going to put pressure on them to get it going.”
Rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith, who made headlines this summer when he documented police officer’s dismissive treatment of him after he tried to report being robbed, joined other speakers in their calls to action.
“We did the protests, so [the politicians] already know what the issue is,” he said. “This is the part where we do the process.”
Smith said that politicians only stay in office so long as they get re-elected, and that police officers are public servants.
“We own the politicians, we own, the police,” he said. “We are going to push out the politicians if they aren’t going to do what’s right. We’re going to put them out of office and we’re going to do it immediately.”
Many of the speakers were relatives of people who were murdered by police. Karen Winters talked about her nephew, Pierre Loury, who was shot in April by Chicago police in Homan Square.
“To you police [officers] who take your jobs seriously, and have an interest in human life – break the code of silence,” Winters said.
Eric Russell, President of Tree of Life justice league of Illinois, addressed the crowd on behalf of the family of Bettie Jones, who was fatally shot by Chicago officers last December inside of her Garfield Park apartment. Jones had called police about a domestic disturbance involving her upstairs neighbors, one of whom, 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, was also murdered. Neither were armed.
“Those of us who have been kissed by the sun have targets on our backs,” Russell said. “We have moved well beyond systematic corruption and institutional racism. CPD, they have no respect for us. They have no reverence for our lives.”
Cynthia Lane, of North Lawndale, said her son, Roshad McIntosh, was killed by police in August 2014. She said that, two years later, she is still determined to get justice.
“My son had his hands up,” she said. “He was killed by the police for no reason at all. The Code of Silence needs to stop. The bad [police] outweigh the good, because the good don’t say anything.”
Shapearl Wells said her son, Courtney Copeland, was shot in the back by an unknown person. Copeland, Wells said, was able to make it to the 25th District police station to ask for help, but that he died shortly afterwards.
Wells said that her son died three minutes before he reached the Illinois Masonic Hospital. She’s still outraged that it took 30 minutes to reach a medical facility that could treat him, and that there was no medical option anywhere closer.
“I have an issue, not just with the community, but with the police,” she continued. “I have an issue with the fact that 75 percent of crimes go unsolved. I have an issue that, if there were 600 white children getting killed, [it] would be different.”
Wells urged those in attendance to not only support the Laquan McDonald Act, but to put more pressure on all officials to do something about the city’s violence.
“If you are interested in what’s going on in Chicago, and you haven’t written to the mayor and police chief to express your concern, you’re part of the problem,” she said.