Black Caucus members on Van Dyke verdict: We still have a lot of work ahead

Illinois Black Caucus

CHICAGO-Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty today of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. His bail was revoked.

Illinois Senate Democrats reacted to the news of the verdicts this afternoon.

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) released the following statement:

“My heart goes out to Laquan’s family as they continue to grieve his loss. This is only a drop of justice in a history full of injustices against Black people and people of color. We still have a lot of work ahead of us in reforming policing, criminal justice, human services and creating opportunities for underprivileged communities.

“Let us continue to organize, continue to let our voices be heard and participate in our democracy wherever and whenever we can.”

State Senator Patricia Van Pelt released this statement:

“I will continue to pray for the McDonald family as I have since Laquan was taken from them. The verdict will not bring Laquan back or undo this tragedy. 

“The jury’s verdict simply makes a statement about the long journey ahead of us to repair and improve relations between our police and our community.

“We need to continue to work to address and end the painful history of police shootings in our city, particularly in the black community and my West Side district.

“I pray that my brothers and sisters will respond peacefully and productively to this news. Relief and frustration are natural and can be expressed constructively. We need to keep moving forward with positive action and peace. As a lawmaker, I remain committed to our role in reforming criminal justice and our many ills that keep young African Americans away from long, fulfilling lives.”

State Senator Mattie Hunter's statement:

“I know I join many of you in breathing a sigh of relief that the officer who murdered Laquan McDonald four years ago was brought to justice today.

Nothing can take away the pain his family feels, and my deepest sympathies are with them.

Justice may have prevailed today, but we still have much work to do in improving the damaged relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

In the coming days and weeks, please be thoughtful about the small acts of peace and progress you can make. And I encourage you to sit down with your family, friends and community members and have conversations about how to improve the relationship between law enforcement officers and citizens of Chicago.”

State Senator Jacqueline Collins' statement:

“We commend the jurors for fulfilling their civic duty in rendering what I feel was a reasonable verdict albeit not exactly what the community was hoping for. I want to congratulate all the activists, journalists and faith leaders for keeping this issue in the public arena,” Collins said.

“The conviction of Jason Van Dyke lays bare the injustices executed by the Chicago Police Department, and frequently abetted by the criminal justice system. In this case, there was a cover-up, and everyone involved should be held accountable. If we do not tear down the blue curtain of silence once and for all, the Laquan McDonalds of Chicago will continue to die in our city. We must never forget that the video – and the truth – were not simply handed to us. Instead, they were ripped from reluctant hands by journalists, citizens and the courts.

“Four years ago, I protested and pleaded for top-to-bottom change. I was immensely proud of all who protested peacefully in Chicago. I was honored to march alongside young people and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement alike on Michigan Avenue.

“Four years later, I urge all Chicagoans to remember that this is one terrible tragedy that is a symptom of a system in dire need of change.  We must not stand by while police officers act as judge, jury and executioner on our streets. We will remain united for justice.

“Today shows that Officer Van Dyke’s gun and badge cannot speak louder than Laquan McDonald’s blood. No one is above the law. Our voices must not die away!”

State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) statement:

“My thoughts are with Laquan’s family as they continue to process him being taken away so soon. I’m glad they received some justice from today’s conviction.

“The fight against injustice continues as we have so much to change especially in the way African Americans are treated in this country. I will continue to work towards initiatives that improve our criminal justice system and help build up our communities.”

State Senator Emil Jones III statement:

“I am relieved that justice was served for Laquan’s family,” said Jones. “We have seen too many black men and women killed at the hands of police with little more than a slap on the wrist.

“The time is now for everyone, including our law enforcement officers, to realize that black lives do matter.

“The verdict was a good first step, but we still have more work to do. We will continue to fight to ensure our criminal justice system equally serves everyone.”

Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) released the following statement:

“Today’s verdict represents a positive step in the effort to repair strained relations between law enforcement and many communities. This is not a time for celebration as much as it is an opportunity for action and reflection about where we go as a community. I hope this case sets a precedent where the men and women who bravely wear the uniform of law enforcement continue to serve and protect without the inappropriate actions of a few damaging the reputation of all. 

“I applaud the jury for carrying out the very difficult task that came before them, and for delivering justice for the family of Mr. McDonald. This verdict shows that justice can prevail and provides a message to our communities that their voices will be heard. We must continue moving forward and being committed to improving relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”