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Justice for Laquan McDonald

Last week, for the second time within the past two months, a white police officer was convicted for murdering an innocent young Black male. Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of 2nd degree murder for killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. 40-year-old Van Dyke was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery, one count for each bullet that he fired into Laquan as the teen walked away from the officer holding a small knife. This means Van Dyke could spend up to 20 years in prison for the murder conviction and an additional 6 to 30 years for each count of aggravated battery when he is sentenced on October 31. This comes on the heels of a conviction less than two months ago of Balch Springs, TX police officer Roy Oliver for the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was a passenger in a car leaving a teenage party when Oliver fired his rifle into the car. Oliver was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Not that long ago, expecting a conviction of a white officer for taking a Black life seemed unimaginable. The mothers of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and John Crawford never even got their day in court as grand juries failed to indict the perpetrators of their children’s deaths. The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Terrence Crutcher and Philando Castile sat through gut wrenching testimony and replays of harrowing recordings of their sons’ murders -- only to have their killers walk free after being acquitted.

These recent convictions hopefully represent a changing tide in the consciousness of American jurors. No longer can officers simply say they “feared for their lives” when eyewitness testimony and video evidence clearly show that’s not credible (think more explicit point to say: when eyewitness testimony ... clearly show no reasonable person had reason to fear for their lives. And although the penalties given are not nearly enough -- Oliver should have been sentenced to more than 15 years, and Van Dyke should have been convicted for the original charge of 1st degree murder -- these two cases ARE a sign of progress. M.O.B.B. United for Social Change will continue to push for prevention of these unwarranted murders and for accountability and maximum punishment when the system fails our sons and their lives are cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. Our sons matter. Our voices count. And finally, we are seeing change on the horizon.

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