For the Families With an Empty Seat at the Table | Sojourners

For the Families With an Empty Seat at the Table

People of Faith Should Lead the Dismantling of a Corrupt System

An 80s song told us “video killed the radio star.” The music was catchy and referred to the varied attitudes we all had about technology. What is this? What would we do now? Fast-forward 35 years, and videos are the very technology for which we are so thankful.

Video changes everything.

When the Chicago Police Department released the dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by one of their own, the city braced for disruption. When we learned of the $5 million settlement to the McDonald family that stipulated the video remain confidential, the city braced for disruption. When residents discovered that footage from a nearby security camera had been deleted by Chicago police, the city braced for disruption. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his team had seen the video, and they were afraid of the public reaction.

People from various corners of the city protested, wanting to know “why the cover up?” and “why did it take nearly 400 days to release the video and bring charges?” Fair questions. And, in a city not known for its political transparency, we didn’t necessarily expect answers. But we demand answers, and we demand change. That it took a court order to release the video to demonstrate police transparency results in an additional level of distrust innuendo, conspiracy, and rumors. Again, we demand change.

We are requesting a “special prosecutor” be appointed through the Department of Justice because we have NO confidence in our state, county, and city officials to fairly investigate this case.

What Chicago needs – and what Chicago shall have – is a diverse group of moral voices to speak out with authority about the failure of retribution, containment, and a "broken windows" model of policing. We need a social media-led campaign of letters and video sharing a different vision. We cannot revert to the transgressions that took place in the 70s, 80s, and 90s under Police Chief Jon Burge. The court, just in the last two years, put down judgments for this egregious policy and violation of human rights.

In the days to come, I and other faith leaders from Chicagoland will be asking for your support and prayer as we further the dismantling of a corrupt system that shielded a corrupt police officer. Our goals are to:

  • Demilitarize the Chicago Police Department
  • Have a department that reflects the community they serve
  • Put in place an elected civilian police board with indictment power
  • Secure proper funding for restorative justice programs
  • Force the resignation and firing of ALL involved
  • Get indictments of implicated officers and commanders
  • Seat a new District Attorney
  • Hold all elected officials accountable

Tomorrow marks the beginning of what’s supposed to be a joyous and thanks-filled season. We’ll sit down with our families, sharing in good food with good company – taking extra time to say “thank you.” Of all the things for which I have to be thankful – friends and family, and a Lord that has never forsaken me – I’m especially thankful for a video that may lead to justice. Justice for the families who will forever have an empty seat at the table.

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