The sectioned-off grassy area on California Avenue between 26th and 27th streets will be a hub of activity for the next month.
Protesters are expected to maintain a strong presence on the parcel as the trial of Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke takes place in the Leighton Criminal Courthouse a short distance away. Van Dyke has been charged with murder in connection with fatally shooting Laquan McDonald in October 2014.
Jury selection in the trial is expected to continue through this week.
On Sept. 5 as potential jurors in the case filled out an extensive questionnaire in the courthouse, Tam Hudson wore a shirt with images of her son on it and sat in a lawn chair in the sectioned-off grassy area during a litany of speakers.
The mother of Pierre Loury, who was killed by Chicago police on April 11, 2016, Hudson cried as her son’s name was mentioned in the same sentences as McDonald.
“I came to show support for Laquan McDonald’s family,” Hudson told the Chronicle. “I want to make sure justice is served.”
Chicago police said Loury was shot after an armed confrontation with an officer. Loury’s family said
he was not the type of person to carry a gun and that he had minor incidents with police in the past, but nothing that would lead to an officer having to shoot him.
Hudson said her life has been “a roller coaster” since her son’s death.
Through tears, she remembered her son as “a big brother, a fun individual.”
“He was my everything,” Hudson said.
Aislinn Pulley, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Chicago, said convicting Van Dyke will provide a sense of justice to Hudson and others who have lost a loved one at the hands of the Chicago Police Department.
“It would begin taking down an unjust system,” Pulley said.
Will Calloway, an activist with Justice 4 Laquan, said that there will be presence on the grassy area near the courthouse all through the Van Dyke trial.
“We have to be willing to go and see this all the way through,” Calloway told protesters gathered Sept. 5. “We need people to demonstrate and come here throughout the trial. Come and be in the space. Be here for the family of Laquan.
At one point, 16 seconds of silence was held, remembering individuals who have been killed at the hands of Chicago police officers and remembering the 16 shots that Van Dyke fired at McDonald, 14 of which where when McDonald was already on the ground.
Chants of “16 shots” filled the air during another point in the protest.
Calloway said that the city needs to change its collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police if real changes are going to happen in the Chicago Police Department.
“They have 72 hours to capitulate before they have to tell what transpired,” Calloway said, referring to the police contract allowing officers who discharge their weapon up to three days before having to give an explanation of the incident. “They can corroborate. If I am picked up, I don’t have the same opportunity to wait.”
Joe Iosbaker with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization said he is tired of seeing grieving families due to actions of the Chicago Police Department.
“We honor Laquan by holding accountable an organization built on racism,” Iosbaker said.
He said people should push lawmakers for passage of the Laquan McDonald Act, which would establish a procedure for an election to recall the mayor of Chicago, any city alderman and the Cook County state’s attorney. The legislation has been bottled up in state committees since 2016.
Iosbaker also called for people to continue the fight to get the Chicago City Council to rescind its decision to create a $95 million police academy and instead put that money into city schools and community programs.
Elimination of the Chicago Police Department’s gang database, which includes the names of 128,000 adults and an unknown number of minors, because it is riddled with errors is another necessary step, according to Iosbaker.
The biggest step toward improving relations between residents and police, Iosbaker and other speakers said, is the creation of a Civilian Police Accountability Council.
“We know it is a racist system. We need to stop the oppression in the black and Latino community,” Iosbaker said.
— Protesters making a stand during Van Dyke trial in Chicago —