President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he was “deeply disturbed” by footage of the fatal shooting of a Chicago teen, whose death has made national headlines and sparked protests throughout the city.
“Like many Americans, I was deeply disturbed by the footage of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. This Thanksgiving, I ask everybody to keep those who’ve suffered tragic loss in our thoughts and prayers, and to be thankful for the overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform who protect our communities with honor,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post. “And I’m personally grateful to the people of my hometown for keeping protests peaceful.”
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with murder in the October 2014 shooting. Video of the incident shows, McDonald, who police say was armed with a knife, walking away from police officers at the scene before being shot 16 times.
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Dash-cam footage of the shooting was released Tuesday.
Hundreds of protesters flocked to Chicago streets following the video’s release. The majority of them have remained peaceful.
On Wednesday, more protesters marched in Chicago, blocking several major intersections during rush hour. Additional demonstrations are planned in Chicago’s shopping district for Black Friday.
Demonstrators, community leaders and residents have called for the firing of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy since the video was made public. Others have called for an investigation into the Chicago Police Department and into the Independent Police Review Authority.
Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also preached messages of reform and accountability Wednesday.
"The family of Laquan McDonald and the people of Chicago deserve justice and accountability," Clinton said in her statement. "As criminal charges proceed in this case, we also have to grapple as a country with broader questions about ensuring that all our citizens and communities are protected and respected. The mothers I met recently in Chicago are right: we cannot go on like this. All over America, there are police officers honorably doing their duty, demonstrating how to protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force. We need to learn from and build on those examples. The loss of so many young African Americans taken too soon should reaffirm our commitment to press forward for progress."
Sanders called for "fundamental reform" in the criminal justice system and asked activists to take action beyond chanting "Black Lives Matter."
"All Americans should be sickened by the video of Laquan McDonald's murder," Sanders said in his statement. "As a nation we must do more than just echo the phrase Black Lives Matter. We must put actions behind these words. Actions that will bring about the fundamental reform that is needed in the face of this crisis. Criminal justice reform must be the civil rights issue of the 21st century and the first piece must be putting an end to the killing of African Americans by police officers."
Dan Herbert, Van Dyke's attorney, has argued the video alone is not enough to determine if Van Dyke "acted inappropriately" when he fatally shot McDonald, though he has described the footage as "graphic and violent" and "difficult to watch." He said outside the courtroom Tuesday that the case needs to be tried in a courtroom, "not in the streets or in the media."