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Chicagoans Stage 'Blackout Black Friday' Marches For Black Teen Fatally Shot by Cops

On the busiest retail day of the year, thousands turned out to protest police handling of the death of a black teen at the hands of a white cop.

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 27 2015, 9:40pm

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

On one of the busiest US retail days, thousands of people took to Chicago's most prestigious downtown shopping district on Friday to protest last year's shooting death of a black teenager by a white policeman and the city's handling of the case.

About 2,000 people with signs reading "Stop Police Terror" gathered in a cold drizzle for the march on Chicago's "Magnificent Mile" on the Black Friday shopping day, which was led by Rev. Jesse Jackson and several state elected officials.

Organizers said the rally would be a show of outrage over the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014, and what they see as racial bias in US policing.

The police officer who shot McDonald 16 times, Jason Van Dyke, 37, was charged with first-degree murder hours before a graphic video of the shooting was made public on Tuesday.

Related: Questions Surround Lack of Audio on New Footage of Laquan McDonald Shooting

More dash-cam footage from four additional police cars present at the scene of the shooting was released Thursday. The lack of audio in the videos have prompted some activists to ask whether it had been inadequately recorded or tampered with in the aftermath of the incident.

The lack of audio means it remains unclear whether officers made any comments before or after the shooting, or if they gave any commands to McDonald before Van Dyke opened fire. The new footage also doesn't provide any additional visual details, and doesn't show the actual shooting.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the initial tape contains the most complete visual record of the incident. All the other patrol cars were reportedly facing away from the action. Police say that the sound was missing from the video due to an unspecified technical problem.

The release of the first dashcam video on Tuesday sparked mostly peaceful protests to call for an end to police brutality. Demonstrators also rallied against the 13 months it took investigators to wrap up their probe into McDonald's death and for prosecutors to level a murder charge at the officer, who is white.

Related: Graphic Footage Shows Chicago Cop Facing Murder Charge Spray Teen With Bullets

Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer charged with murder for an on-duty incident in decades. His lawyer, Daniel Herbert, told CNN this week that the dashcam footage is unreliable because the video "distorts images."

"Video by its nature is two-dimensional. It distorts images. So what appears to be clear on a video sometimes is not always that clear," Herbert said. He said Van Dyke "truly was in fear for his life as well as the lives of his fellow police officers."

The officer remains in prison after being denied bail and is facing 20 years to life if convicted. Over the course of his career, Van Dyke has received at least 18 civilian complaints against him, including for misconduct and excessive use of force. The city paid out more than $500,000 to settle the complaints.

On Friday, some protesters chanted "Stop the cover up, 16 shots," as they marched down Michigan Avenue.

African-American members of the City Council have repeatedly called for the resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and on Thursday, Chicago Teachers Union called for Cook County's chief prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, to step down as well.

A Facebook page posted by march organizers listed additional demands including the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate questionable circumstances in the case, and a special election to choose a new state's attorney for the county.

Organizers also called for the ouster of anyone else found to be involved in misconduct surrounding the case, and the "demilitarization" of the Chicago Police Department.

"We have watched in anger and disappointment as the city has covered up police violence," teachers union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. He accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of delaying release of the videos during his campaign for re-election, which he won in April.