Van Dyke Trial: Interview with Three Young Men of Color

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Tejas Vadali Twelve jurors and a judge were all that stood between freedom and life behind bars for ex-police officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke had been charged with first-degree murder for the 2014 killing of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald, who was only seventeen at the time of his death. McDonald’s death served as a wake-up call to many Chicagoans as to what kind of violence exists in our city. The jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder as well as sixteen counts of aggravated assault, one for each bullet he shot McDonald with. Activism and opinion were particularly present in our own school community. Three young men of color––Randy Pierre, Xavier Rincon, and Lamar King––who live on the South Side of Chicago were interviewed in order to gain insight as to how this monumental verdict will affect their communities, their families, and their personal senses of safety. Sophomore Randy Pierre, who lives in the South Chicago neighborhood, spoke about how the verdict has brought him and his family great relief:

Well as a black teenager, it’s scary when the police come up to you cause for me, whenever it happens, I fear for my life. For Van Dyke to be convicted shows that you can’t just kill one of us and get away with it now. As for my community, the verdict makes us stronger and shows that Laquan’s death won’t be in vain. My family still worries every time I’m out whether I’ll come home safely or not, but for this case to have had the result it did, I think shows that even though these kinds of attacks aren’t over, we are making progress (Pierre).
  Relief was a common sentiment, but one student felt that the verdict was inevitable. Sophomore Xavier Rincon thinks that Van Dyke’s verdict was unavoidable:
It’s pretty clear from the dashcam footage…you can’t really make that stuff up. I knew in my heart that he was going to be guilty from the start. I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life; I have enough faith in my city, in my community to not let this tragedy go unnoticed. If he was innocent, my community would be much more worried, but because he’s guilty, I feel much safer, and I think this tragedy has brought myself and my family closer together. Where I live, near Midway, it can get dangerous, and I think that if we get the bad cops like Van Dyke of the streets, then we can hear more about all the good cops doing great work in neighborhoods all over the city (Rincon).
Echoing Xavier’s statements, Sophomore Lamar King felt that there is still work to be done:
The verdict provides a little more faith in the justice system, but we still have a long way to go,” he said. “It doesn’t affect my family much because I’d like to think none of us would be caught in that situation, but in the event that we were, I think we’re adequately prepared to try and de-escalate that kind of situation. I feel safe because most of my activities are in pretty safe, pretty well-policed areas. The only things I do in my neighborhood, Auburn-Gresham, are eat and sleep, but overall, I feel pretty safe, and I’m sure this verdict will make many other young men in my neighborhood feel increasingly similarly (King).
A common sentiment among students is that the Van Dyke verdict is a step in the right direction for the city. After four years, many citizens are simply happy to see the case concluded, but others feel that this is only the beginning of a national movement. “I know this verdict is going to be a good thing for our city,” Randy said, “and I hope it will show other cities that police brutality will not be tolerated.” Many students believe that the verdict will bring positive changes to communities on the South Side, and as Xavier stated, “we’ll all sleep a little more soundly knowing that the case turned out the way it did.”]]>