CITY HALL — The City Council's Black Caucus called for Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to be fired Wednesday in the wake of murder charges filed against a white officer for killing an African-American teen.
Saying that the "official position" of the caucus is that McCarthy should be fired, Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) added that he plans to call for a vote of no confidence in the police chief at the next City Council meeting. Brookins charged injustice across the legal system, saying, "A thumb has been on the scale."
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) called for an "independent prosecutor" to investigate the Laquan McDonald case, saying there was also no confidence in Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
The Chicago Urban League called for a full investigation by the federal Department of Justice. "We believe CPD officers have engaged in the systemic use of excessive force and carried out a pattern of discriminatory harassment against African American residents in the city," said interim President Shari Runner. "Furthermore, they have been dishonest about those practices, in some cases even covering up illegal activity."
The National Bar Association, the oldest and largest association of predominantly African-American lawyers and judges, joined the call to fire both McCarthy and Alvarez Wednesday:
Wednesday night as more protests picked up steam Downtown, Alvarez's office released a statement: "The State’s Attorney’s Office has been engaged in an ongoing and extremely thorough investigation into this case which led to my office announcing First Degree Murder charges against Van Dyke yesterday. These are very serious and unprecedented charges, but the facts of this case demand it.
"While I understand there may be questions or frustration about the length of time of the investigation, I want to assure citizens that my office took the necessary time that was required to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation and to gather all possible evidence in order to ensure that we have built the strongest case possible so that justice can be served for Laquan and his family."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood by his police chief. "We've been clear that the mayor fully supports Supt. McCarthy," said mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn. "This incident is a tragedy, and it's absolutely unacceptable, but Jason Van Dyke's actions are not representative of Supt. McCarthy's values, or of the hardworking men and women of the Chicago Police Department."
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the caucus, called the video of the October 2014 shooting released Tuesday "hideous" and "horrific," adding that it "confirmed most of our worst fears." He chided Alvarez for taking "almost 400 days" to file charges in what he said was clearly a case of excessive force.
"I can see this in five minutes and say, 'This guy's guilty of something, we need to charge him,'" Sawyer said. "Is it any wonder that people don't have faith in this system?"
Brookins charged additionally, "We were misled," on the $5 million settlement the council approved for McDonald's family in April.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said the shooting was "clearly beyond the scope of a police officer," and the council never should have agreed to the settlement.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said the council would closely examine the union contract being negotiated with the Fraternal Order of Police and would make sure it includes "tough policies and sanctions" for abuse of police powers.
Sawyer also called for the release of protester Malcolm London, who was freed by early afternoon, and said he expected more protests in the days ahead.
"We have a serious issue," he said. "Now that the tape is out, we have people exercising their right to protest, and It's going to get more and more serious. ... This is just the beginning."
Sawyer supported a call by the Rev. Michael Pfleger to block the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue on Friday, saying, "As long as they do it peacefully, yes, it's all right with me."
The caucus held a press conference Wednesday, a day after Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
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