It’s been two weeks since the unnecessary and untimely killing of Renisha McBride. On November 2, the unarmed 19-year-old who was in search for help after a car accident in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights was shot in the face by Theodore Wafer, whose porch she had walked onto. The parallels between Trayvon Martin’s tragic killing and McBride’s are resonating in a national psyche rife with story after story of Black men and women gunned down as if their Black bodies have little or no value. And while we don’t know what will happen to Wafer as a result of the killing (George Zimmerman, the man who killed Martin, was acquitted) we know this pattern of violence must end.
Reports that have surfaced since the tragic killing note McBride was intoxicated at the time of the incident, implying that somehow she was responsible for her own death. McBride crashed into a parked car and walked a short distance to knock on Wafer’s door for help. Instead of, say, inviting her in to call 9-1-1 to report the car accident, he shot her in the face. Originally, Wafer claimed the shotgun fired accidentally, and he wasn’t arrested immediately after the shooting based on this version of events—reminiscent of the Zimmerman case.
Now that more evidence has surfaced, Wafer is claiming that he shot McBride in self-defense, even though the door to his home was locked and reports show that she was shot through this locked screen door and from a far enough distance that she didn’t pose an immediate threat. On Friday, Wafer was finally charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and instructed to turn himself into the authorities. Wafer was arraigned, with his bail set at $250,000.
Beyond these facts, it appears McBride was killed in a manner more appropriate for a rabid animal trespassing on someone’s property than a human being with a full cadre of rights. Her life, like so many others in the Black community, was ended prematurely, for inexplicable reasons that defy logic about self-defense, guns, racial discrimination, and the criminalization of Black bodies.
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This narrative is all too familiar. Zimmerman made similar claims after the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2011. Zimmerman claimed Martin posed a threat to his community, in part because Martin was wearing a hoodie. Zimmerman claimed that Martin—who was “armed” with Skittles and an iced tea—was a threat because he didn’t respond to being followed by a strange man, with the “yes, sir” head down humility expected by Black people being interrogated by those who believe they are somewhere they are not permitted to be. Martin’s death and the failure to immediately arrest Zimmerman caused the nation to take notice and Million Hoodie marches were organized across the country, garneringnational attention. (Even Beyonce and Jay Z attended one in New York City after the verdict.)
So where is the Million Hoodie march for Renisha McBride?
While there are certainly activists organizing vigils across the country for McBride, they are noticeably smaller at this early stage in the case than the ones organized for Martin. Like Martin, McBride was gunned down inexplicably, and then labeled a threat by the shooter to justify the killing.
There is no question that Black men are under attack by a racist criminal justice system and a society that forever suspects them to be criminals. But when a young Black woman suffers the same fate as Trayvon Martin, the outrage appears to be concentrated among Black women, instead of a universal outrage with mass protests. That has got to change. Black women consistently show up for Black men, and yet the opposite is not true when Black women are the victims of injustice.
That Black bodies cannot simply exist and move about unmolested, without the threat of violence for little to no reason, links us back to the Jim Crow South, when Black bodies were labeled threatening and lynched in front of white communities. As Professor Jelani Cobb wrote in the New Yorker, “African-Americans are both the primary victims of violent crime in this country and the primary victims of the fear of that crime.” Both Renisha McBride and Trayvon Martin died as an apparent reaction to this discriminatory—and common—mindset.
There must be justice for Renisha McBride, for her family, and for her community. Black America is in a constant spin cycle of pain. The reasons given to justify the deaths of Black children are steeped in America’s checkered racial history and white supremacy.
The callousness with which Martin and McBride were killed should compel a national dialogue on race, inequality, profiling, and gun safety, but as long as white Americans refuse to acknowledge that Black people are not inherently a threat, and are capable of innocence deserving justice, the pain will continue. For a nation that claims to have a foundation of freedom and liberty, these killings are evidence of a nation lost and in denial, unable to find its way until all Americans can walk up to a home seeking help after an accident, and not receive a fatal shot to the face.
Who has the right to self-defense? Starting Monday, 12 jurors will hear evidence about Cherelle Baldwin, a 24-year-old Black woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut, whose attempts to escape her ex-boyfriend ended in his death. Baldwin has been detained for nearly three years awaiting her second trial on charges of murder. Her first trial, which lasted six weeks in early 2015, resulted in a hung jury and mistrial. If convicted this time, she may spend decades in prison.
In 2013, Baldwin had been granted a court order against her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Brown. But the piece of paper didn’t stop Brown from continuously texting, calling, and showing up at Baldwin’s house to demand access to their toddler son as well as his ex-girlfriend’s phone and cash, according to Baldwin’s family.
On the morning of May 18, 2013, Brown sent Baldwin a series of texts. At 6:49 a.m., he texted, “I said what I said so u could take it however u want u but after today u will have to call the cops cuz it over today.” When Baldwin told him to leave her alone, he responded, “N u will see how crazy shit will get today.”
Shortly after, he showed up at her house. According to a police affidavit obtained by AlterNet, Baldwin told them that Brown had climbed through her window, then attacked her: “He pulled a knife and choked her with his belt.” Baldwin managed to escape, running outside and into her car. “He managed to get in the car and proceeded to choke her again,” the affidavit stated. “Then she got out and fell as she did and the car ran over her leg and that he also got out to chase her[,] and the rest happen[ed] too fast and she wasn’t sure how he ended up in front of the car.”
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When police arrived, Brown was dead and Baldwin had a broken leg. The baby was in the house, unharmed. Baldwin was taken to the hospital; three weeks later, she was charged with first-degree murder. Her bail was set at $1 million, an amount her family was unable to afford, so Baldwin was sent to the state’s women’s prison, York Correctional Institution in Niantic, to await her trial. In early 2015, after five days of deliberating (and listening to tape-recorded testimony from Baldwin herself), 11 jurors wanted to either consider lesser charges or acquit Baldwin altogether. One juror held out, and so the judge declared a mistrial. The prosecutor vowed to retry her case, and Baldwin was sent back to Niantic to await her next day in court. She has been there ever since.
Baldwin’s experience illustrates how the justice system frequently criminalizes and prosecutes abuse survivors, often after this same system failed to stop the domestic violence. Because self-defense laws frequently don’t explicitly take domestic violence into account, the onus is on survivors like Baldwin to convince a dozen strangers that they were truly in fear for their lives when they took the actions that landed them in court.
“When Jeffrey Came, It Was a Whole Different Story”
In 2010, 19-year-old Baldwin was a student at Porter and Chester Institute in Stratford, Connecticut, studying to become a medical specialist administrator and working two jobs. While filling her tank at a gas station, she met Brown. The two talked, exchanged numbers, and began seeing each other.
“The next thing I know, Cherelle is not coming home at night,” said Baldwin’s mother, Cynthia Long, with whom Baldwin had been living at the time, in an interview with Rewire. But Baldwin didn’t bring Brown to meet her mother until the following year. By then, she was two months pregnant, and she and Brown were planning a future together.
Weeks before the baby was born, Baldwin called her mother and asked if she could spend the night. Long told Rewire that her daughter, usually a peaceful sleeper, was fighting and crying in her sleep. “I had to wake her up,” she recalled. But if she had any recollections of her dreams, Baldwin kept them to herself. She also kept quiet about any problems she and Brown were having.
Long does recall that Brown was controlling. At family gatherings, she recounted, “When he said, ‘Let’s go,’ she had to be ready to go.” Baldwin also began behaving differently, needing to clear things with Brown before making decisions.
“She always had to check with him,” her mother recalled. “That wasn’t Cherelle. Before that, she always made her own decisions—she pretty much held her own. But when Jeffrey came, it was a whole different story.”
Baldwin also began to pull away from other family members. Baldwin had always been close to her cousin Latreesh, with whom she had grown up. But once she started dating Brown, Latreesh, who asked that her last name not be used, said they “grew apart.” At the time, however, Latreesh chalked it up to being busy with the new relationship and holding down two jobs.
When they did see each other, Baldwin would tell Latreesh about money being missing or times that Brown would take her car keys so that she wouldn’t be able to leave the house. But, Latreesh reflected, Baldwin may have remained silent about the extent of the abuse because “she probably didn’t want to put us in harm’s way.”
On New Year’s Day 2012, Long received a phone call. Brown had been in a car accident, wrecking Baldwin’s car. Baldwin told her mother that, when she asked Brown about the accident, “he shook her and the baby while she was holding the baby,” Long said. Then, Long said, he tried to break her phone. Long told her daughter that she was coming over and told her to call the police.
But, before she could leave the house, Baldwin called her again. “She said not to come because Jeffrey’s mother was coming,” Long said. Despite her mother’s urgings, Baldwin did not call the police. That was the first time that Baldwin had actually told her mother about any abuse.
Baldwin’s silence is not unusual. “A lot of times victims don’t disclose to anyone,” said Lenina Trinidad, an attorney who has represented abuse survivors in court proceedings, in an interview with Rewire. Trinidad has extensive experience working with abuse survivors and around issues of domestic violence. In addition to representing survivors in court, she has also served on several committees dedicated to examining domestic violence legislation and policy, improving court responses to domestic violence victims, and promoting public awareness about the issue.
There are several reasons that survivors may not tell their family and friends about the abuse, she told Rewire, including a lack of awareness that their loved one is abusing them. “Everyone has a different idea of what domestic violence or interpersonal violence looks like,” she explained. “Often, it begins with certain behaviors”—such as being controlling and encouraging isolation from friends and family—”then it escalates.”
But, Trinidad noted, physical violence often occurs once or twice at the beginning of the relationship. “From then on, fear of physical aggression keeps the victim under the control of the abuser. This is not a person walking down the street with bruises or lumps. But in essence, this person is being terrorized,” she said.
In addition, escalation can be gradual and people being abused may not notice until it is too late: “It’s a terrible analogy,” she said, “but it’s like the frog in boiling water.”
Trinidad also noted that it can be dangerous to disclose abuse: doing so risks even more escalation if the abuser finds out. At the same time, she stated, people in abusive relationships may not necessarily want to end the relationship; they simply want the abuse to end. Friends and family members, once told about the abuse, may pressure the survivor to walk away. Furthermore, the fear of being judged prevents many survivors from telling others.
Brown began confiscating his girlfriend’s phone, her family said, preventing her from calling relatives and friends. Baldwin began working at Yale-New Haven Hospital, which required Brown, who was not working at the time, to stay home with the baby. “He’d take the car and disappear and not return until late morning,” her mother recalled. Not having anyone else to watch their son, Baldwin was often late for work. According to Long, when she did get to work, Brown would then call her repeatedly. After a few months, Baldwin was fired.
By 2013, the couple had split and Brown had moved in with another woman. But ending the relationship doesn’t end the danger. According to Trinidad and many other domestic violence advocates, it is actually the most dangerous time for a survivor. Approximately 75 percent of women killed by their abusers have been killed after trying to end or ending the relationship. In Baldwin’s case, sharing a son with Brown made it nearly impossible to sever all contact with him.
Despite their separation, Brown continued to terrorize Baldwin. In February, he showed up at her house and began tossing her clothes out. When she tried to call 9-1-1, he grabbed her phone and threw it onto the ground, breaking it. He was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to breach of peace. Baldwin was issued a court order. But neither the arrest nor the order stopped his harassment, threats, and violence. According to Baldwin’s mother, only days later he showed up and grabbed their son, forcing Baldwin to drive down the wrong side of the street to retrieve the toddler.
“She was really, really scared,” remembered Latreesh, who began watching the boy while Baldwin worked at her new job. Latreesh recalled one particular night when, after picking her son up, Baldwin asked her cousin to accompany her home even though she lived only a block or two away. “She thought he was following her,” Latreesh recalled. In the car, Baldwin told her cousin that Brown had been threatening her, that he had put his hands on her before, and that she was frightened.
In May 2013, Brown called Latreesh looking for Baldwin. When he learned that she was celebrating Mother’s Day with her mother at a local restaurant, he appeared outside the restaurant and called her, demanding that she bring their son outside. If she didn’t, he would come into the restaurant and make a scene. Baldwin capitulated and, although her family had already paid for her and her son’s meals, abruptly left the restaurant.
Six days later, on Saturday, May 18, Long received a distraught call from her son. Unable to make out more than the fact that something had happened involving Brown and Baldwin, she called Baldwin’s father, who lived in the apartment above his daughter. He told her that Brown was in front of the car and Baldwin, barely moving, was beside the car. He had already called 9-1-1. They were taken to separate hospitals. Brown was declared dead; Baldwin was treated for her broken leg and questioned by police.
Two days later, Baldwin began complaining about her back. That was when her mother saw the belt marks on her back, the bruises on her side, and the bruises around her neck. Long immediately took photos, but said that the police waited until that Thursday to do so. By then, Baldwin’s skin had begun healing and the marks were much less visible.
Three weeks later, the mail brought a warrant for her arrest.
Her family accompanied her to the precinct a few days later, where she turned herself in. Since then, she has spent nearly three years in prison. Her son, who will turn 5 years old in October, splits his time between Long and his paternal grandmother. He only sees his mother during prison visits twice a month. Although visits are supposed to last at least one hour, both Long and Latreesh said that they can sometimes be as short as 20 minutes.
Baldwin’s story, of a domestic violence survivor criminalized for taking action against her abuser, is far from unique. One of the most famous examples is that of Marissa Alexander, the Florida mother who tried to argue she had been acting in self-defense—specifically, that she had been covered under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law—by firing a warning shot into the ceiling to stop her husband’s assault. She was unsuccessful and was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Her conviction coincided with the arrest of George Zimmerman, who successfully claimed Stand Your Ground in his shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin; the timing drew wider attention and support for Alexander. The following year, an appeals court ruled that the judge’s instructions on self-defense were faulty and reversed her conviction. In January 2015, nearly four-and-a-half years after her arrest, Alexander agreed to a plea bargain for time served and two years of house arrest. She is now in her second year.
Alexander’s case is exceptional only in that it garnered such widespread attention and support. Across the country, stories of other abuse survivors serving long prison sentences for defending themselves have emerged—from Tewkunzi Green in Illinois and Cierra Finkley in Wisconsin, to Donna Jelenic in California and Valerie Seeley in New York.
But it’s difficult to know exactly how many other abuse survivors are in similar positions: Little documentation is available about the number of people who have claimed self-defense stemming from domestic or other types of violence. In 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report stating that nearly half of women in local jails and state prisons had been abused prior to their arrests. That report, now 16 years old, is the most recent data available.
Self-defense laws don’t often reflect the reality of domestic violence. The law in Connecticut, for example, states that a person is justified in using “deadly physical force” against someone else if they believe both that their own life is in danger and such force is necessary to stop the attack. However, the law also states a “duty to retreat“: In other words, a person is required to retreat instead of using deadly physical force, if “a completely safe retreat is in fact available” and if doing so “will avoid the necessity of using deadly physical force.”
This exception does not take into account the fact that domestic violence is not limited to a single instance of violence from which a person can safely retreat. It also doesn’t consider that the survivor is reacting not only to the immediate actions, but the entire history of abuse and coercion.
Connecticut’s law does contain an exception for violence that happens in a person’s home; if the assailant does not also live in the home, according to the law, there is no duty to retreat. In Baldwin’s case, given that Brown no longer lived with her, it should seem that even if she feared for her life, Baldwin had no duty to retreat from her own home, where her child was inside.
In many cases, however, turning to the police and court system can be even more harmful. Trinidad pointed out that many “have no faith that the court system will offer any relief. Many people have been involved in the court system [before] and had their lives torn apart.”
For instance, in jurisdictions with polices that require officers to arrest someone when responding to a domestic violence call, victims risk being arrested or further brutalized by police. That means, in many cases, that means survivors must devise their own safety plans.
Cindene Pezzell is the legal coordinator for the National Clearinghouse for Battered Women. She also spent five years as an assistant public defender in Philadelphia; during her last year, she represented many abuse survivors in family court. She noted that prosecutors often resist survivors’ attempts to introduce claims of abuse into their defense and raise skepticism about abuse claims.
“That’s where you’ll see questions like, ‘Why didn’t you leave?’ or ‘Why didn’t you call police?’” she said. She also noted that, for many abuse survivors, there is no paper trail, which further fuels disbelief that violence has occurred.
But if the relationship was still happening, that too can be used against a survivor in court. In California, for instance, Kelly Savage was charged with murder and torture after her abusive husband killed her 3-year-old son. The prosecutor argued that Savage enjoyed the beatings and, because she had not yet left the relationship, was equally responsible for her son’s death. The jury believed this explanation; Savage was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
In addition, race plays an important factor. “It’s really hard for people to accept Black women as victimized,” Trinidad stated. “In my experience in the criminal court system, Black women are inherently questioned and inherently distrusted. The system and the players don’t find them as credible.” The most recent statistics on imprisonment seem to back Trinidad’s observations: Black women are up to four times more likely to be imprisoned than white women. However, just as there is little data on the number of domestic violence-related convictions, there is nothing readily available about conviction rates of Black women claiming self-defense.
Police, prosecutors, and courts already have practices to interview people who have experienced trauma, Pezzell pointed out. Many jurisdictions use such techniques when interviewing police officers who are involved in shootings, for instance, or abuse survivors who are filing charges against their partners. But these practices and techniques have largely been disregarded, she said, when abuse survivors are the ones on the defense.
In her time as public defender, Pezzell has represented abuse survivors accused of violating civil protection orders, a misdemeanor that is adjudicated in family court. Each time, she recalled, she informed the prosecutor that her client was a battered woman; each time, the prosecutor ordered an investigation before proceeding. If the investigation turned up findings of abuse, the prosecutor would sometimes reduce the charges or dismiss them altogether.
Pezzell similarly urged police and prosecutors to investigate allegations of abuse for self-defense claims. “It can take some time, but it will have a better end result,” she stated. She also advised that they use trauma-informed interview techniques rather than re-traumatize the survivor with accusatory—and often hostile—interrogations.
At the same time, she said, domestic violence service providers, such as social workers and nonprofit agencies, need to support survivors facing prosecution. “We need to make sure that the stories of these survivors don’t disappear because they’re facing charges,” she said.
Cherelle Baldwin’s trial begins on Monday. It will be up to Baldwin and her lawyer to convince all 12 jurors that she feared for her life, and that she should therefore be acquitted of her charges on self-defense grounds. But she may face an uphill battle in the coming weeks.
As Trinidad said, “It’s hard for people to accept that a woman could defend herself using lethal force against a man or that it’s necessary in any way.”
The public is watching as Chicago activists have called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign after a judge ordered the release of a video showing a city police officer shooting a Black teenager named Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Groups such as the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and the Coalition for a New Chicago maintain Emanuel played a role in the delayed release of the video. A range of national figures and organizations, such as filmmaker Spike Lee and Johnetta Elzie with Campaign Zero, have either said the mayor should step down, or, in the case of Bernie Sanders, suggested “those involved” should resign. Others have declined to weigh in or are in support of Emanuel. In the latter camp is Hillary Clinton, who earlier this month expressed her continued confidence in the mayor. Chicago activists say that Clinton’s defense of Emanuel after the video’s release could have political consequences for the leading Democratic presidential candidate.
The shooting occurred on the night of October 20, 2014, when police were responding to a call about a man with a knife on the city’s Southwest Side. Police cameras caught the incident, in which Officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times, but police officials held the tape from being released to the public, stating that it was part of an ongoing investigation. The department fought for more than a year to keep the video from being made public. In April 2015, the Chicago City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, which included a provision to keep the video confidential.
Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama finally ordered the video’s release in November; Emanuel fired Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy the next week. Though police officials stood by Van Dyke’s account that McDonald approached him with a knife before he was shot, the video shows McDonald walking away from him.
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The day the video was released, 18 months after the shooting, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez decided to charge Van Dyke with McDonald’s murder.
Many activists allege that the Emanuel administration intentionally covered up the video during his re-election bid in 2015. Emanuel’s failure to press for release of the video until a judge acted, and Alvarez’s failure to charge Van Dyke until the video was released, left many calling for the two to step down.
During last week’s protests, activists held signs and chanted, recounting what they viewed to be Emanuel’s crimes.
Chicago has a history of police violence and political corruption. From 1972 to 1991, more than 100 suspects, mostly Black men, were tortured and forced into confessions by officers under former Police Commander Jon Burge and his “midnight crew.” Last May, Chicago became the first U.S. city to pay reparations to victims of police torture, when the city council voted unanimously in favor of a $5.5 million package for survivors of Burge’s reign of terror.
The Guardian released an investigation into another incriminating story concerning the city police department around the time Chicago lawmakers congratulated themselves over the reparations deal. From August 2004 to June 2015, the paper reported, police detained more than 7,000 people, 6,000 of whom were Black, at an off-the-books interrogation compound in Homan Square on the city’s West Side, where they were unable to contact or be found by family or lawyers. According to the Guardian:
The facility’s use by police has intensified in recent years. Nearly 65 percent of documented Homan Square arrests since August 2004 took place in the five years since Rahm Emanuel, formerly Barack Obama’s top aide, became mayor.
Chicago activists have long called for a change to the city’s systemic problems with police violence and political corruption. The release of the Laquan McDonald video has brought their cause to the national stage.
Today, more than half of Chicago residents believe Emanuel should resign, and at just 18 percent, his approval rating is at an all-time low, according to a recent poll taken after the release of the video. Yet his history within the Democratic Party has many national politicians, particularly Democrats, slow to renounce the mayor.
“He loves Chicago and I’m confident that he’s going to do everything he can to get to the bottom of these issues and take whatever measures are necessary to remedy them,” Clinton told reporters while campaigning in Iowa in early December.
Frank Chapman is a longtime activist and field organizer for CAARPR, one of the groups organizing the protests calling for the mayor’s resignation. He says that Emanuel is only one part of a top-down problem that his organization is trying to address, but that all those in charge must be held accountable for real change to begin.
One of CAARPR’s demands is the implementation of an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). Chicago activists began developing plans for community police accountability in the 1970s, said Chapman, but it had a resurgence after Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old Black woman from Chicago, was fatally shot by an off-duty Chicago police detective in March 2012. In 2013, CAARPR worked with attorneys and other community organizers to draft a proposal for establishing CPAC in Chicago.
The council would consist of elected community members from each police district in Chicago who would decide how their communities are policed and hold police accountable for their crimes. The council would appoint the police superintendent, and it would provide more detailed statistical analysis of demographic information of complaints by type and victim.
Chapman told Rewire that while he’s happy that recent protests have brought national media attention to Chicago’s problems, he wishes there would be more focus more on the possible solutions conceived by activists.
“People get off on describing problems,” Chapman told Rewire. “The national media is presenting the problem but not capturing the solution. We’re proposing a solution.”
Stop Police Crimes, CAARPR’s campaign to implement CPAC, has 25,000 supporters across Chicago and about 1,000 active volunteers, Chapman said. While Emanuel’s resignation is not their primary concern, Chapman believes it is inevitable.
“As far as I’m concerned, this administration is dead. We just haven’t buried it yet,” Chapman told Rewire. “This administration does not have the ability to continue to run this city the way it has been running.”
Chapman told Rewire that he believes Clinton’s continued support of Emanuel will affect how Chicagoans vote.
“She really stepped on the hornet’s nest with those comments,” Chapman said regarding Clinton’s support for the mayor.
Others believe, however, that Clinton’s current dominance in the polls will keep her from having to renounce Emanuel. Scott Goldberg, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Chicago, said that he doesn’t believe that the presidential candidates are taking police violence seriously as a public health crisis, and instead are addressing incidents as individual cases. Goldberg believes that each case shows City Hall’s continued neglect of communities of color within the city.
Goldberg was part of a group of medical students who joined the call for Emanuel’s resignation by staging a 16-minute “die-in” in front of City Hall, one minute for each time McDonald was shot. He doesn’t believe that Clinton’s comments will hurt her with Chicago voters.
“I think ultimately Chicagoans are going to vote Democrat,” Goldberg told Rewire. “So if she’s the candidate, which she likely will be, she’ll get their votes.”
Clinton has tried to make overhauling the criminal justice system a central theme of her campaign, but Chapman says that she and other top politicians, including President Barack Obama, are not holding the people in power throughout these incidents accountable.
“Barack Obama is the chief law enforcer of the United States. He’s the president. Why did it take so long for him to get the Justice Department to do something around this issue? This stuff has continued to go on at a high level since the murder of Trayvon Martin,” Chapman told RH Reality Check. “What more do you need?”
Chapman continued, saying that it’s not enough for politicians, like Clinton, to say they support the Department of Justice’s investigation into the CPD.
“We have to take on our government on this,” Chapman said. “The justice department comes in here, and all they’re required to do is focus on operational policies and procedures. They’re not focusing on the crimes that have been committed. They’re not holding anybody accountable for these murders. They’re not addressing a systemic problem.”
Clinton’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), has taken a more direct stance against Emanuel, albeit without naming him directly.
“Any official who helped suppress the videotape of Laquan McDonald’s murder should be held accountable,” Sanders said in a statement. “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.”
The 2016 Democratic presidential candidates have spent much of the primary season trying to demonstrate their embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement, but some activists believe that their promises will continue to seem empty if they fail to address Laquan McDonald’s murder, the death of Rekia Boyd, and the interrogations at Homan Square as part of a systemic problem.
“The Emanuel administration is totally discredited,” Chapman said. “Because it is very clear to everybody, people of various political persuasions, that he suppressed a crime. He held from public view a crime committed by a police officer to get re-elected.”
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify Ben Carson’s stance on Rahm Emanuel’s resignation. Carson called the shooting of Laquan McDonald “despicable,” but has not said Emanuel should resign. We regret the error.