Sixteen shots. The story that broke the silence.


Freelance reporter Jamie Kalven of the Invisible Institute

On February 10 of 2015, Jamie Kalven wrote a story for the website SLATE that blew the whistle on the killing of Laquan McDonald.

Kalven is a freelance journalist. It was Kalven that filed the FOIA which led a judge to order the video of McDonald’s murder by Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer, to be released Tuesday night.

Ironically, Kalven was not permitted by Chicago police to attend Tuesday’s press conference called by the Mayor and the Superintendent. He was barred at the door and had to text his questions to a reporter inside the room.

“The officers are responding to somebody with a knife in a crazed condition, who stabs out tires on a vehicle and tires on a squad car,” Camden said at the scene. “You obviously aren’t going to sit down and have a cup of coffee with them. He is a very serious threat to the officers, and he leaves them no choice at that point but to defend themselves.”

The Chicago press dutifully reported the police account of the incident. The reporter for the local NBC station called it “a clear-cut case of self-defense.” It was also reported that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the city agency charged with investigating police shootings, would conduct an investigation, as it does in the case of every “police-involved shooting.”

In its broad outlines, this is a familiar Chicago story: A black American is shot by a Chicago police officer. A police source says the shooting was justified. IPRA announces it is investigating. Then silence. After a year or two, IPRA issues a report confirming that the shooting was indeed justified.

The statistics are stunning. According to IPRA reports, Chicago police officers shoot, on average, several residents a month. Roughly 75 percent of those shot are black. Civil rights lawyers and investigative journalists I’ve talked to who have covered the Chicago police for decades cannot remember the last time criminal charges were brought against a Chicago police officer for a shooting while on duty.

Sometimes before the story of a police shooting evaporates into silence, we briefly hear the voice of a family member or friend trying to find words to describe who the victim was or questioning the shooting. Not so in the case of Laquan McDonald. A ward of the state, he appears not to have left much of a trace in the world. At any rate, there was no one to speak for him during the brief moment of media attention occasioned by his death.

The press coverage did, however, contain a couple of particulars that didn’t meld with the police narrative. A witness, Alma Benitez, was quoted as saying that the shooting was unnecessary, because a number of officers were present and they had control of the situation.

“It was super exaggerated,” she said. “You didn’t need that many cops to begin with. They didn’t need to shoot him. They didn’t. They basically had him face-to-face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him.”

Read the entire article here.

Prosecutors drop charges against Malcolm London.

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Malcolm London walks out of bond court with his supporters.

The cops picked activist and poet Malcolm London out of the crowd and charged him with felony battery.

The reaction was so immediate and intense that by mid day a judge set him free.

Prosecutors have dropped aggravated battery charges against prominent activist, poet and protest organizer Malcolm London.

“You are free to go,” Judge Peggy Chiampas said Wednesday before the packed courthouse had to be quieted by the sheriff’s deputy.

Asked how he was treated by police, London said, “Well, it was jail.”

Activists had worked all night and morning – on the street and on the internet – demanding London and the other protesters who were arrested in last night’s peaceful protests be released.

By later Wednesday morning #FreeMalcomLondon was the number one trending topic of Twitter.

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Meanwhile the three main perpetrators of the Laquan McDonald murder cover-up are still on the streets and holding their jobs: Mayor Emanuel, State’s Attorney Alvarez and Police Superintendent McCarthy.

Free Malcolm London.

Malcolm London, Chicago poet and activist, was arrested and charged with felonies Tuesday night protesting the murder of Laquan McDonald and the year-long official cover-up.

It took 400 days to arrest the cop who killed Laquan.

It took five minutes to arrest Malcolm London.

Malcolm is still in jail.

Free Malcolm London.

Random thoughts.


“A fish first stinks at the head,” is an expression that comes from the Turks.

That stink you smell comes directly from the 5th floor.

Anita Alvarez has finally, after 400 days, indicted Jason Van Dyke, one psychopathic cop, for the murder – but nobody for the cover-up of the murder – of Laquan McDonald. Too little. Too late. It is just not good enough.

Other cops stood there and watched and followed their racist bullshit code of silence.

Alvarez, McCarthy and the Mayor knew what went down all this time and kept silent.

They tried to cover it up with a $5 million payment to the family of Laquan McDonald before there was even a lawsuit.

At the Sun-Times, Sneed has already begun publishing the names of Black and brown cops that are possible replacements for McCarthy.

Alvarez will not survive. We will elect Kim Foxx as the new State’s Attorney.

But in the streets, the chants are for more than that.

The cover-up of the killing of Laquan McDonald.

400 days

-Curtis Black, Chicago Reporter

It was just about a year ago that a city whistleblower came to journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman out of concern that Laquan McDonald’s shooting a few weeks earlier “wasn’t being vigorously investigated,” as Kalven recalls. The source told them “that there was a video and that it was horrific,” he said.

Without that whistleblower—and without that video—it’s highly unlikely that Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke would be facing first-degree murder charges today.

“When it was first reported it was a typical police shooting story,” Kalven said, where police claim self-defense and announce an investigation, and “at that point the story disappears.” And, typically, a year or 18 months later, the Independent Police Review Authority confirms the self-defense claim, and “by then no one remembers the initial incident.”

“There are an average of 50 police shootings of civilians every year in Chicago, and no one is ever charged,” said Futterman. “Without the video, this would have been just one more of 50 such incidents, where the police blotter defines the narrative and nothing changes.”

Read the entire article here.



Tenth Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, Chicago’s first elected Chicago Teachers Union member of the Chicago City Council.

I can imagine that at this coming Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner the topic of Chicago teachers might come up in somebody’s family conversation. On one side of the table young cousin Martha, a Chicago teacher herself, will be extolling the virtues and sacrifices of her colleagues and why the union’s bargaining position is fair.

Uncle Bill, an ardent supporter of the presidential aspirations and immigrant positions of Donald Trump, will sneer and say, “If your union bosses are all for the kids, why the hell are they asking for any money. Sweetie.”

Talk of current events at extended-family Thanksgiving dinner can often be a toxic combo.

Personally, that’s not true for me. There will only be union supporters sharing turkey at our dinner. Things may only turn south when the dessert dishes are cleared and we engage in what my brother calls full-contact Scrabble. It is only then that the gloves may come off.

One year we went head to head over the legitimacy of the word, clafouti.

Since the word included all seven tiles, the outcome of the debate was a game changer.

I only tell this story because it was my Scrabble word and I remember winning the game. Other members of the Klonsky family may remember it differently, of course.

Perhaps the spirit of unity that I saw at last night’s CTU rally will spread across the land on Thursday. Uncle Bill and cousin Martha will come together as folks did in Butler Field on a cold November evening on the Lakefront.

By the way, even most Chicagoans don’t know that the lawn in front of the Petrillo Band Shell is called Butler Field. I received many calls during the day yesterday asking, “Where the F is Butler Field.”

What the rally demonstrated to me was that this fight is more than a fight for money. Oh. Make no mistake, Uncle Bill. It’s about money.

Rahm and the board want money and they want to take it from the teachers, nurses, paraprofessionals, clinicians and others covered by the CTU contract,  a contract, which President Karen Lewis reminded me, has already expired.

Yes, Uncle Bill. This is a contract fight in which the board wants to take money away from their employees.

Last night was a rare sight. Real diversity in a city that rarely has a chance to witness such such a thing. It was a show of support with Democrat State Representative Robert Martwick from the northwest side of Chicago sitting with young Black Lives Matter activists.

As an aside, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery gave a rousing speech. Illinois Education Association Executive Director Audrey Soglin was announced but was a no-show.

Maybe the cold kept her car from starting.

No matter. My take-away is that if the teachers in Chicago walk, it will be for genuine fairness. Nor just for money.

And this is just some advice I give to Mayor Rahm and CEO Forrest Claypool. I give it for free. You should settle now and avoid a strike. It is much harder to settle when teachers walk out for fairness than it is to settle when they bargain for money.

It is harder to quantify fairness than it is to quantify money. Union members will know it when they see it.

Am I right cousin Martha?


If we are to get Goldman Sachs out of ESEA, we will have to be the ones to do it.


-Bev Johns

If we are to remove/change Goldman Sachs Pay for Success in S. 1177, we have to do it.

The National groups to which we belong have decided to do nothing.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) generally decides “our” position on “our” issues. All major groups in our field belong to CCD.

CCD met last week on Pay for Success. They decided to take no position.

Not surprising since one of the Co-Chairs of the CCD Education Task Force is the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) which, through its membership in America Forward, supports Pay for Success.

CCD stated it has not seen the final language on Pay for Success in S. 1177 (nor has anyone else as it is now being written for release on November 30).

Of course it will be very difficult to change/affect any language in S. 1177 AFTER the bill is WRITTEN and ready for a final vote in the U.S. House  and U.S. Senate, as the bill must pass both with identical wording.

Will YOU make a call to D.C. (per the message below)?


The concepts in ESEA have passed Conference Committee but the actual language in S. 1177 is now being written: S. 1177 is to be released to the public on November 30.

It is hard to believe that some members of the Conference Committee on ESEA (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders) knew that Goldman Sachs Pay for Success is in S. 1177.

After all, only the words Pay for Success are there – no explanation that Utah is using Pay for Success to reduce identifications for special education by over 99 percent, or that Goldman Sachs is already being paid for this “success” for these “results” in Utah.

Or that in Chicago Goldman Sachs will be paid $9,100 each year for each child NOT identified as needing special education as a result of being in the Pay for Success program.

You can CALL the D.C. office of Senator Lamar Alexander, talk to a live person, strongly request to talk with committee staff about Goldman Sachs Pay for Success in S. 1177. If you do, assume they know nothing about how Pay for Success has been used in Utah, nothing about the New York Times  articles on Utah and Pay for Success, etc.

What happens to special education when Goldman Sachs is paid each time a school does NOT identify a student as needing special education? And Goldman Sachs is paid year after year for that same student?

You can do the same for Senator Patty Murray, Representative John Kline, and Rep. Bobby Scott (the other 3 leaders on ESEA).

Below is what we are doing in Illinois on Sen. Mark Kirk:


On Monday and Tuesday please call the offices of our U.S. Senator Mark Kirk urging him to act on removing/modifying the Goldman Sachs Pay for Success part of  S. 1177, the reauthorization of the Elementary and

Secondary Education Act (ESEA which used to be called No Child Left Behind).

Sen. Kirk, despite weeks of contacts on Pay for Successapparently has done nothing, even though he was a Member of the Conference Committee between the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate on ESEA.

I received a telephone message on Thursday from Sen. Kirk’s Washington, D.C. office saying nothing could be done by Sen. Kirk.

The actual language of S. 1177, based on concepts approved by the Conference Committee, will not be released until November 30. Changes were being negotiated on Friday after the Conference Committee was over, and that will continue this week.

Utah is using Pay for Success to reduce special ed by 99 percent (and is the first project to actually start to pay back Goldman Sachs), and Chicago will be paying

Goldman Sachs $9,100 EACH YEAR for each student NOT identified for special education (multiple payments for the same student).

Please express your concerns to Sen. Kirk’s staff on his lack of action on Pay for Success in S. 1177,and the absolute requirement for action to avoid permanent harm to special education students and their parents in Illinois. (for D.C., if you want to speak to a live person, do not take any options offered but simply wait until someone answers)

U.S. Senator from Illinois Mark Kirk

Washington, D.C.: 202-224-2854

Chicago: 312-886-3506

Springfield (often no one there): 217-492-5089

Random Thoughts.


Last night at the great Chicago Teacher Union rally in Grant Park I was at the foot of the stage taking pictures. I waved to 10th Ward Alderman Sue Sadlowski Garza and Karen Lewis.

Sue waved back. Karen Lewis waved, but was trying to tell me something. The crowd was screaming and I’m not wearing my hearing aids. I could tell Karen Lewis was saying something about “contract.” Contract? I couldn’t tell more than that.

Later I found out what she was telling me. I had written that the CTU contract expires at the end of this coming year. “It has already expired,” the President corrected me. Chicago teachers are working without a contract.

“My apologies,” I wrote to her.  “I corrected it in the post with my error crossed out. I hate it when people don’t admit their errors. ‘Show your work,’  my math teacher used to say.”
“Yep. I always taught my students good laboratory practices. Draw a single line through the mistake, initial and date it.  Then fix it,” she wrote back.
An educator in charge.