Activists rally on anniversary of Chicago teen's killing

October 20, 2016 4:59 PM EDT

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke sits in the courtroom during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Pool File Photo


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By Timothy Mclaughlin

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Around 200 activists and supporters gathered outside Chicago's police headquarters on Thursday to voice support for proposed recall legislation that targets elected officials and is inspired by the fatal shooting a black teenager by a white officer two years ago.

The proposed Laquan McDonald Act is named after the 17-year-old who was shot by officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014, but video of his death was not released until over a year later.

The video, which showed Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times and continuing to fire after he had fallen to the ground, thrust Chicago into the center of a nationwide debate on police treatment of minority communities.

The footage sparked widespread protests and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. The Department of Justice has launched an investigation to determine whether the Chicago police have systematically violated constitutional rights.

William Calloway, an activist who helped push police to release the video, organized the "Laquan Day" demonstration. He is also pushing for the adoption of the Laquan McDonald Act, the details of which were unveiled on Thursday before the rally.

"We just want to hold our elected officials accountable, we want to hold the police accountable and we definitely want to hold our community accountable," Calloway told the crowd at Thursday night's demonstration.

The bill seeks to allow voters to recall some elected officials, including the mayor, from their positions through a petition system. It is backed by Democratic state Representative Kenneth Dunkin.

Van Dyke is facing charges of first-degree murder and is on unpaid leave. He has pleaded not guilty.

Police Chief Eddie Johnson recommended in August that in addition to Van Dyke, four other officers be fired for making false or misleading statements about the events around the shooting.

At Thursday night's event, the phrase "16 shots and a cover up," was a popular refrain.

Chicago's Emanuel said in a statement on Thursday, McDonald's "death was a wake-up call for our city on an issue that has challenged the city for decades, and brought a renewed commitment to a public conversation about policing and community relations."

Emanuel has undertaken a series of steps to reform the police department in the wake of the federal investigation.

He sacked Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy last year and has established a new police oversight body and a draft use of force policy.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker)



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