Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is standing with police accountability protesters once again — this time demanding that any officials who helped cover-up the murder of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer be held accountable.
“I join with those calling for a federal investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department. Futhermore, any official who helped suppress the videotape of Laquan McDonald’s murder should be held accountable. And any elected official with knowledge that the tape was being suppressed or improperly withheld should resign. No one should be shielded by power or position,” Sanders said in a statement released to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago police officer, has been charged with the first-degree murder of McDonald, a black teenager.
The officer shot the 17-year-old 16 times, despite the fact that he appeared to pose no immediate threat to anyone. McDonald was reportedly holding a knife, which he used to slash the tires of a police vehicle, but was moving away from officers at the time when he was killed.
The department had maintained that the teen had lunged at officers, something that the recently released footage very clearly contradicts.
Van Dyke fired a “barrage of bullets” less than 30 seconds after arriving at the scene, and continued shooting as McDonald’s lifeless body as it laid sprawled on the ground. Prosecutors claim that Van Dyke was reloading his weapon to continue until his partner stopped him.
State Attorney Anita Alvarez has stated that this was not a proper use of force and that it was not justified.
“With these charges, we are bringing a full measure of justice that this demands,” Alvarez told reporters on the day of Van Dyke’s arrest.
“It is everything it has been described to be by the news accounts,” Alvarez continued. “It is graphic, it is violent, it is chilling. I’ve been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years…to watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing.”
Unrest swept the city as protests immediately erupted and continued throughout the week following the video release. The community was outraged that it took 13 months to release the footage, and that the department had lied about what it contained.
The district manager of a Burger King restaurant that caught the shooting on their surveillance camera has also alleged that officers went into the back room for three hours and deleted 84 minutes of footage — including the shooting.
Many now believe that it was part of an extensive cover-up of the crime committed by one of their own.
This is not the first time Sanders has thrown his support to Black Lives Matter and their calls for justice. For five decades the Senator has fought for racial equality, so it should come as no surprise that he has been hugely supportive of the ideas within the movement.
I know you have heard these names before but they bear repeating so we do not lose sight of the real human price being paid.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 21, 2015
For example, in a chance meeting with the mother of Sandra Bland, Geneva Reed-Veal, Sanders promised to “say her name,” and did so, at the first presidential debate.
“We asked Senator Sanders if we could take a picture with him and he consented. He did not impose upon Ms. Geneva to ask for a picture of his own. He did not use the moment as an opportunity to promote his campaign. He took no record, he made no statement. He did not try to turn it into a publicity stunt. He simply made space for a sacred moment, and then let it pass without trying to gain anything from it.
For that, I respect him. For that, I am grateful. That choice may not have made him a very good politician, but it made him a better man,” Reverend Hannah Bonner who was present for the chance meeting in October wrote.
At the BET Presidential Forum in November, Sanders also gave a passionate speech about racial justice and inequality, his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, and how he intends to address these issues should he win.
— BET's #WhatsAtStake (@whatsatstake) November 21, 2015
“[People] must do more than just echo the phrase Black Lives Matter,” Sanders said. “We must put actions behind those 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 has to be police reform. The killings of unarmed African-Americans has got to stop,” Sanders passionately exclaimed.
Sanders concluded his speech by stating that criminal justice is an issue of the utmost importance, and that it is a problem that can be resolved, if we can all just come together. His commitment to the cause clearly remains unwavering.
Featured image via Twitter