At back-to-school event, a call for peace during Laquan McDonald trial

CHICAGO — At a back-to-school gathering on the Northwest Side, religious and community leaders called for peace should Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke be acquitted in the slaying of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

"The family of Laquan McDonald saw his life end in violence," Appellate Judge Nathaniel House, Jr., said. "I think his family would not want his memory tarnished by violence."

At the event at 4538 W. Fullerton Ave., the Jesse White Tumblers wowed the crowd. Kids could play in a bouncy house and get free haircuts. There were free backpacks, school supplies and food — even massages and spa treatments.

People of all backgrounds locked arms to urge Chicagoans to remain peaceful after the Van Dyke trial.

"Many of our communities are underserved," the Rev. Ray Berryhill said. "Some communities don’t even have a grocery store. And so the last thing we need are for there to be riots and bombs and all of that to tear up what we do have."

The case is a sensitive issue in Chicago's African-American communities. McDonald's family has already called for peace.

"After the verdict we still got to live," Berryhill said, "and this city has got to go on."

Potential jurors were given questionnaires last week; jury interviews are expected to begin Monday. Once a jury is seated, the trial is expected to last several weeks.