Question: What Do You Do With a System That Gives No Future to Millions of Black and Latino Youth; Whose Police Brutalize, Lock Them Up and Even Kill Them in Cold Blood, and Then Covers It Up?

Answer: Overthrow It.

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Last fall, an on-duty Chicago cop (Jason Van Dyke) was put on trial for murdering Laquan McDonald. The trial was rare, the jury’s conviction for second degree murder even rarer. The trial was rare not because the police in Chicago rarely kill Black youths but because they are never prosecuted for it. From 2010 to 2016, police killed 92 people and wounded 170. Four out of five were Black. Before Van Dyke, no Chicago cop had ever been put on trial for shooting a Black person while on duty. (Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2016)

Now three former and current Chicago cops are being tried in a bench trial (a trial before a judge, not a jury) for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct, i.e., lying in official police reports to cover up and justify Van Dyke shooting Laquan. Both sides have rested and the judge said she will rule on December 19.

Laquan McDonald was just 17 years old. (His friends morphed their greeting, “Quon Dog” into an affectionate “Corn Dog.”) He had made a new start at an alternative high school on the South Side where the principal described him as quick to smile and hug his teachers. On an October night in 2014, Laquan was already surrounded by multiple police on a major street in an industrial section of the South Side of Chicago when Jason Van Dyke arrived on the scene. Seconds later, he jumped out of his patrol car and opened fire. Laquan crumpled to the ground. Van Dyke paused for a moment and then resumed shooting over and over and over. 16 shots. The eight Chicago pigs on the spot provided no first aid, no comfort.


The story of Laquan McDonald and really the millions of Laquans in inner city neighborhoods doesn’t start that night on a street on the South Side of Chicago. It doesn’t start with the hard life he had as a child. The story really starts decades and even centuries before he was born. You get a deep picture of this in Bob Avakian’s speech, Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, as well as in the Q&A now posted. But just to briefly sum that up:

The U.S. was founded on slavery and genocide. After the long nightmare of slavery was ended after the Civil War, instead of genuine and lasting freedom for Black people there was violent reassertion of slavery by another name—sharecropping farming in the South, where Black people were kept in legal second-class citizen status, terrorized to stay “in their place” by the KKK and white Citizen Councils for decades, as well as forced into slave labor in prisons for “crimes” such as vagrancy, where many were literally worked to death.

When Black people were no longer needed to do that backbreaking labor down South, they were both driven off the land and lured to go north seeking freedom and a better life, only to be super-exploited in the lowest and dirtiest jobs in factories, steel mills and stockyards—if they could find work at all. In Chicago, like cities all over the U.S., Black people were segregated in overcrowded and dilapidated slums. White mobs rioted over and over again in the decades that followed whenever Black people dared to move into the “wrong neighborhood” or integrate the schools—all managed by the top real estate interests in the city, again for the benefit of their capitalist system.

Today those factories have long since closed and the rulers have no real way to make profits off of large swaths of the masses of Black people. Chicago is a city where years after the civil rights movement, segregation is still the rule of the day, when they are not literally driving Black people OUT OF the city... where the schools in Black neighborhoods are turned into virtual prisons and pipelines to actual prisons or the military, when they’re not being shut down... where masses of youth are consigned to lives of such hopelessness and desperation that crime, in the words even of one of the capitalist system’s defenders, becomes a “rational choice” and “the life” becomes a source of meaning for the youth so they are driven to murdering and shooting and crippling each other.

So what does this system do with youths who are robbed of any decent future or prospects? It contains them violently through heavily armed police forces that brutalize and murder them. The blue uniform of the police has replaced the white robe of the KKK and the mounted slave patrols and militias of the past. The role of the police “is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in....” (from BAsics 1:24)

This is the world that Laquan was born into and which condemned him even before he was born. This is the real story of the millions of Laquans and of the pigs who murdered him, who covered up his murder, of the city administration and all its agencies that shielded the police. This is the story that will not be told in the courtroom or the media.

If you want to understand WHY this keeps happening over and over for generations; if you want to understand why the oppression of Black people is poured into the foundation of this capitalist-imperialist system and why there is no future for the youth; if you want to understand why the Chicago consent decree was a product of the struggle against police brutality but won’t fundamentally solve the problem; if you want to understand why a revolution is the solution and how one could be made... if you agonize about this situation—then you need to watch the film of Bob Avakian’s talk Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution and listen to his answer during a Q&A in Chicago about the consent decree.

Anatomy of a Cover-Up

Oppression breeds resistance and people do rise up... and the system is forced to both repress and maneuver when they do. These trials in Chicago are only happening now because of what people did in Ferguson and Baltimore and all the other cities where people straightened their backs to demand police terror STOP! And as part of this, there was all the journalists’ exposures and the authorities’ mounting fear of how the city, including people who want to believe the police are “fair,” would be shocked and convulsed in response to the release of the video of the cold-blooded execution of Laquan and the massive cover-up that ran right up through the entire city administration.

Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor, describes “CPD standard operating procedure is, and has been for years, when an officer is accused of misconduct, when an officer uses force, it’s to justify it and circle the wagons and get the officer’s back. You don’t even need a conspiracy, it’s just standard operating procedures.” It is, he said, “investigation as cover-up.”

A car with a Latino man and his adult son in it had pulled over when the police started to surround Laquan in the middle of the street. They had a clear view of the events surrounding the shooting. These eye witnesses were made to leave without being asked for any information as potential witnesses. Police went into a nearby Burger King that night and after they had gained access to the relevant surveillance video, according to the BK manager, the portion of the video surrounding the shooting was erased.

Within hours after the shooting, Van Dyke and other officers who were on the scene of Laquan’s murder and the detective in charge of investigating it for the CPD met together back at area central. There they discussed the shooting and watched the dashcam video. Only AFTER this meeting did the pigs on the scene write their reports and get interviewed individually by the detective, David March, who was leading the investigation for the CPD. Two of the reports falsely claimed that Van Dyke was acting in defense of his life to stop McDonald’s attack, using identical language to Van Dyke’s description of the situation: that McDonald had committed battery right before Van Dyke shot him and was aggressively swinging a knife toward police... and that after Laquan was shot and on the ground, he was still a threat because he kept trying to get up with the knife in his hand.

One cop at the scene has testified that Detective March pressured her to lie in her report about what she saw and when she refused, he altered her report without her knowledge to make it sound like Laquan was a threat.

March’s investigation found that all the accounts by the officers were consistent with the video and concluded that the shooting was justified. A high ranking deputy chief reviewed and signed off on it, clearing Van Dyke of any wrongdoing. (This deputy chief was later allowed to retire with full pension.)

The video from one dashcam that captured the shooting is in stark contrast to all the lies that the police told. (Conveniently, the audio and the video on some dashcams were rendered inoperable prior to this.) The video clearly shows Laquan walking away from the police in the middle of a four lane street. He never committed an assault. His arm is at his side. It is never raised. He never lunged. In fact, Van Dyke advanced toward him as he opened fire. Laquan never tried to get up as bullet after bullet struck his body on the ground. It was, as the world would see, a ruthless execution of a Black teenager.

In the wake of the shooting, the whole machinery of the city administration went into gear to protect the murdering police and conceal the truth from ever seeing the light of day. The police chief saw the dashcam video early on as did the “Independent” Police Review Authority, the district attorney, the city’s legal counsel, and the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff. The “independent” agency’s investigation went nowhere in collusion with the mayor’s (documented in email exchanges that the city had to release.) In the midst of Emanuel’s mayoral race, the city council ratified a $5 million settlement in literally five seconds—no discussion, no questions. A settlement before a suit was even filed by McDonald’s family. The settlement stipulated that the video not be released. The mayor continued to fight in court to prevent the video from being released. All the people involved in this cover-up should have been indicted for their role in aiding and abetting the murder of Laquan, yet only three cops are facing charges.

It is important to remember that the cover-up almost worked as had countless others. The police narrative (i.e., lies) was duly reported as fact by all the mainstream media. A medical examiner put in his formal report that Laquan had lunged at police based on a phone call from Detective March. (March’s lawyer is now bizarrely claiming that someone impersonated him in the call to the medical examiner’s office!) No one even questioned the shooting at the time, until some clues about what a horrific murder it really was were leaked to journalist Jamie Kalven from the Invisible Institute. Almost a year after the murder, a judge finally ordered the dashcam video to be released to the public. Shocked by what they saw and how it was in stark contrast to the police narrative, people of all nationalities took to the streets in outrage night after night for weeks.

Cover-Up or Business As Usual?

The lawyer for Van Dyke’s partner, who is currently on trial, brought home the truth that this is how it works. He argued that there was nothing wrong with the cops meeting together after the shooting or the cops coordinating how they would handle the situation, “[T]hose factors are what occurs in every single major crime that occurs in this city. And it occurs at every single police department in this state and this country. This is not evidence of an agreement. This is typical standard operating procedure of what occurs in the wake of a major crime.”

The journalist Jamie Kalven, who has for decades exposed police brutality in Chicago, made an important observation: “While the term ‘code of silence’ evokes something essential—the coerced silence of police officers who observe but do not report abuses by their fellow officers—it is, in some respects a misnomer, a euphemism. The practices to which it refers are less a matter of silence than of tightly orchestrated lying and various means used to maintain narrative control.” And further, that it is not some "vague 'culture'" among cops but “a set of institutional mechanisms central to the operation” of the Chicago Police Department.” (See Kalven’s “Code of Silence” published online.)

The Trial

In this current trial, Laquan McDonald is once again being demonized and painted as responsible for his own death, AND the police who systematically lied in their reports are once again being given a platform to viciously claim his murder was justified. Along with allowing Laquan to be put on trial, the judge has also allowed wild and unfounded attacks by the defense on the personal character and integrity of witnesses against the police. In a surreal moment, one of the pigs’ attorneys actually grilled the Latino eyewitness who has courageously fought to tell the truth about what he saw that night—why didn’t he call 911 to report what he witnessed? Mr. Torres pointed out that when you call 911 you get the police who were already there. The whistle-blower cop was attacked by the defense, accused of lying to save her job so she wouldn’t have to return to working as a cashier at a fast food joint. She testified that as result of refusing to falsify her report and testifying in this trial, she has been labeled a rat and a traitor on the job, re-assigned to desk duty for fear that her fellow pigs would put her in harm’s way on the street.

The judge will make her ruling on the outcome of this trial on December 19. It remains to be seen if fear of further exposure of the whole judicial system will result in this judge, who is a former veteran prosecutor, finding these cops guilty or whether the whole weight of the system and everything the system has invested in protecting the police will result in the judge letting these pigs walk. And whatever the verdict, the fact that so few of the guilty have even been tried amounts in itself to a whitewash and an outrageous injustice, even on the terms of what this system CLAIMS to be about (equality before the law).

This trial could also could have ramifications on the upcoming sentencing of Van Dyke and his appeal of his guilty verdict for 2nd degree murder.

While it would be an outrage if any of these pigs walk free, it is still worse that this system goes on even after a few scapegoats are punished, creating new Laquans with the same brutality and the same orchestration of lies that cover it up.

This system cannot be reformed, it must be overthrown.

Concessions on police terror; violence among the youth; why you need a revolution: Q&A w Bob Avakian

If you want to understand WHY this keeps happening over and over for decades; if you want to understand why the oppression of Black people is poured into the foundation of this capitalist-imperialist system and why there is no future for the youth; if you want to understand why the Chicago consent decree was a product of the struggle against police brutality but won’t fundamentally solve the problem; if you want to understand why a revolution is the solution and how one could be made... if you agonize about this situation—then you need to watch the film of Bob Avakian’s talk Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution and listen to his answer during a Q&A in Chicago about the consent decree.

Eddie Johnson was named police chief when Garry McCarthy was forced to step down after the video of Laquan’s murder became public. Johnson was Emanuel’s hand-picked choice to run the department in the hopes that putting a Black cop in charge would quell the criticism of the department, which is notorious for its brutality. Even the Department of (in)Justice was forced to investigate the CPD in 2017 after the uproar in the city over Laquan’s murder and found a police “pattern of unlawful force” and that “the failure to review and investigate officer use of force has helped create a culture in which officers expect to use force and not be quest[ion]ed about the need for or propriety of that use.”

The Invisible Institute recently published a lengthy exposure at The Intercept about Eddie Johnson’s history in orchestrating and overseeing these cover-ups, protecting pigs involved in notorious shootings and excessive force complaints in case after case: Rekia Boyd, Dakota Bright, Niko Husband, Christian Green and many more. See “Use of Force—Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s Long Record of Justifying Police Misconduct and Shootings” published by Invisible Institute at The Intercept, November 14, 2018.



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