No arrests during Van Dyke verdict demonstrations

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CHICAGO — Demonstrators marched through the streets of Chicago Friday in response to the guilty verdict in the Jason Van Dyke trial.  Police made no arrests.

A jury on Friday found Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the Oct. 20, 2014, slaying of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was found not guilty of official misconduct.

Before the verdict was read Friday, a large group of demonstrators gathered at City Hall. Once the verdict was announced about 1:45 p.m., the group marched through the streets of downtown Chicago. People cheered and chanted.

By 5 p.m. Friday, part of the group had locked arms and blocked the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Ontario Street.

The group first made its way on to Michigan Avenue about 4:15 p.m. Demonstrators were momentarily blocked by Chicago police, but were eventually let on to the street and blocked traffic.

This followed a march near Madison and LaSalle streets.

When the verdict was read at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, 2650 S. California Ave., a group of demonstrators outside the Little Village courthouse erupted in cheers.

“Justice is justice, this is America,” demonstrator Joseph Watson said. “It’s not just about being black, it’s about justice. And it’s about being American.”

Friday was the first time in at least 50 years that a Chicago police officer was found guilty of murder in an on-duty shooting.

“Today shows that police officers can’t continue to be judge, jury and executioner,” activist Ja’Mal Green said. “They can’t take to the streets and decide our fate with their guns, with their bullets.”

The case has been viewed as a test, and perhaps a turning point, in the long-standing controversies over racial profiling, the use of force and police accountability.

“Our fight has just begun," activist Eric Russell said. "We are not happy because at the end of the day this does not take targets off of our children’s backs. ... Jason Van Dyke’s soul belongs in hell and his body can rot in a cell.”

Many of the demonstrators said they were leaving the courthouse to join the demonstration at City Hall.

Some activists said that they would have preferred a guilty verdict on the first degree murder charges, but recognize  the verdict has the potential to change policing in the city and across the country.

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