Police in the US act like modern-day slave patrols, Black Agenda Report's Margaret Kimberley told Eyes On Events, after the historic conviction of Chicago cop Jason van Dyke for the murder of unarmed black teen Laquan McDonald.
Chicago police officer Jason van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old black teenager Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014. Van Dyke, who is white, initially claimed McDonald lunged at him, requiring him to fire his weapon in self-defense. His dash-cam told another story, showing McDonald walking away from a group of police officers as the first of 16 bullets hits him in the back.
Van Dyke's conviction is the exception rather than the rule, because the US justice system is designed to protect the cops and not the public, says Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report, a website focused on black left issues.
Their job allegedly is to protect us, but they are really used as the slave patrols.
Kimberley called for a revival of grassroots black activism, learning from both the mistakes and the victories of Black Lives Matter. "It has to be an independent mass movement, part of a larger movement of self-determination for black people so that we can make sure that this issue doesn't disappear, because police killings don't stop."
"We have to reestablish how we are going to make demands on this system to keep the police from being hired killers," she said.
Van Dyke's conviction comes almost exactly four years after he shot McDonald. He was also found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm – one for each bullet he fired into the teenager. He was acquitted of one count of official misconduct. Van Dyke had been called to the area by reports of a knife-wielding individual trying to break into cars.
Most officers who kill unarmed black men are never indicted, let alone convicted. Timothy Loehmann, the white Cleveland cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 less than two seconds after arriving on the scene, was never indicted and was only fired from the department when they discovered he’d lied on his employment application. He has just been hired by the Bel Air, Ohio police department.
Police fatally shot 987 people in 2017, the third year in a row the death toll has hovered around 1,000, according to statistics compiled by the Washington Post. Mapping Police Violence places the death toll even higher, at 1,129. Only one percent of the officers responsible were charged with a crime, and 27% of their victims were black, despite black people comprising only 13% of the population.
In Kimberley's words, "The system defends them. It is set up to defend them. The intention is to defend them, and the intention is for black people in particular to be subject to their violence and to accept it." Van Dyke's conviction is an important first step, but the judicial system must consistently hold police officers responsible for their crimes, and only popular protest can accomplish this goal, Kimberley believes.