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Laquan McDonald Has Potential To Be 'Modern-Day Emmett Till,' Pastor Says

By Ted Cox | November 23, 2015 1:03pm | Updated on November 23, 2015 6:05pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel met Monday with community and religious leaders and African-American aldermen ahead of the release of the controversial and potentially explosive police dashcam video showing the October 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

"Protests are imminent," said the Rev. Ira Acree, of the Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave. "Mayor Emanuel knows that."

Acree said ministers meeting with Emanuel said they would make a case for protests to be "peaceful," but he added that the actual meeting was "very tense, very contentious."

According to Acree, the mayor pledged Chicago would not have violent protests on the order of what has recently taken place in Baltimore and in Ferguson, Mo.

Acree also said protests were to be expected, adding, "If there were no protests, that would mean we had become immune to these matters."

"I'm definitely concerned about people's outrage," said Pastor Corey Brooks of the New Beginnings Church of Chicago, 6620 S. King Drive. "We're asking people to be peaceful," he added, but said religious leaders would not be to blame if protests got out of hand.

"We're in a situation that has the potential to be a bombshell," Brooks said.

"A lot of people are going to go crazy," said Ja'Mal Green, founder of the Auburn Gresham youth group Skyrocketing Teens Corp. He said release of the video had the potential to be "a modern-day Emmett Till," the Chicago youth whose murder in the '50s galvanized the nascent civil-rights movement.

"As we regularly do on important topics, the mayor and other administration officials are meeting with a number of community and faith leaders today to discuss the release of the video," said mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said. "It will be an open dialogue to discuss the tragedy that took place last October, the actions of the officer that remain under criminal investigation and the path forward for Chicago."

The Emanuel administration and the Police Department have not yet announced a time for the video's release. But a judge has ordered it released by Wednesday.

According to Brian Sleet, chief of staff for Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), head of the City Council's Black Caucus, the mayor also met with that group.

"The mayor wisely is enlisting the assistance of community leaders to avoid any potential violent protest," said Sean Howard, spokesman for Bishop Larry D. Trotter, senior pastor of the Sweet Holy Spirit Church, 8621 S. South Chicago Ave. "I'm hearing the video is very bad."

The city has been on edge since a judge ruled last Thursday that the video showing McDonald's death in Oct. 2014 must be released to the public by Wednesday.

Michael Robbins, an attorney representing McDonald's estate, said last week there was cause for concern.

"It's very disturbing. It's very graphic," Robbins said after the court ruling. "You have to be concerned about the community. I understand the city's concern. I share their concern."

According to Steve Patton, corporation counsel for the city, who testified about the video as part of a $5 million settlement approved by the City Council in April for McDonald's mother and sister, the dashcam video shows McDonald being shot 16 times by a single officer at 41st Street and Pulaski Road, even though several officers responded to a call of a break-in at an area truck yard, and two officers had trailed him in a squad car for blocks.

No other officer fired a shot.

Daniel Herbert, an attorney representing officer Jason Van Dyke, has confirmed he is the officer involved in the shooting. Van Dyke is now on administrative duty, pending the results of federal and local investigations into the matter.

Robbins said last week in no uncertain terms that McDonald "was shot while walking away" from the officer.

"It's our understanding that there will be an indictment," added Jeffrey Neslund, Robbins' partner on the case. "We fully expect the feds to do the right thing in this case, and this officer will be brought to justice."

Robbins and Neslund emphasized that McDonald's mother was not formally part of the controversy over release of the video.

"She's not opposing it," Robbins said. "She doesn't want to participate in its release."

They added, however, that the family would prefer the video not be released.

"What mother would want to see the execution of her son over and over again on the nightly news or on YouTube?" Neslund said.

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