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Chicago Mayor Apologizes For Police Killing Of Black Teenager


Large crowds of people are protesting in downtown Chicago today calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step down.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Rahm, resign. Rahm, resign. Rahm, resign.

MCEVERS: It's a continuation of protests that started two weeks ago after the release of a dash cam video that showed a white police officer killing an unarmed black teenager. Today, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel apologized for that shooting and called for a rebuilding of trust between the city's African-Americans and the police. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the introduction to this report, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald is referred to as an "unarmed black teenager." In fact, he was holding a knife when he was shot.]

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: The access to City Hall was tight today with police lining the hallway leading to the City Council chambers. In a special address, Mayor Emanuel told Chicago aldermen that what happened the day Laquan McDonald was shot by Jason Van Dyke should never have occurred. Emanuel said supervision and leadership in the police department failed, but the shooting of McDonald happened on his watch, and ultimately, he's responsible.

RAHM EMANUEL: But if we're also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step, and I'm sorry.

CORLEY: During his speech, Emanuel said the lack of trust between police and many African-Americans must be rebuilt, and a code of silence in the police department must end.

EMANUEL: Permitting and protecting even the smallest acts of abuse by a tiny fraction of our officers leads to a culture where extreme acts of abuse are more likely, just like what happened to Laquan McDonald.

CORLEY: It was quiet in the Council chambers - the only applause when Emanuel, moved nearly to tears, recounted his answer to a young man who asked if police would treat the mayor the same way they treat him.

EMANUEL: No citizen is a second-class citizen in the city of Chicago. If my children are treated one way, every child is treated the same way. There is one standard for our young men.

CORLEY: Alderman Scott Waguespack says all of city government must share the blame for how the McDonald shooting was handled.

SCOTT WAGUESPACK: But I think this goes back to not just this Laquan McDonald video but a whole style and approach to government that's been secret, pushing back whenever the public wants information, and that's got to change as well.

CORLEY: Mayor Emanuel's floor leader, Alderman Pat O'Connor, says rebuilding trust will take some time. He says the selection of a new police superintendent will help show whether the city is moving in the right direction.

PAT O'CONNOR: The mayor's agenda right now I don't believe is saving his neck. It's working with the city of Chicago to reinstitute a trust in the government, a trust in the police department and a mutual respect between the community and the police.

CORLEY: But standing outside the Council chambers, protestors like J'Mal Green were not mollified by the mayor's apology, and he, like others, are still calling for the mayor to resign.

J'MAL GREEN: Going forward, we need leaders who care about us and know what we are going through in our neighborhoods and to fix that.

CORLEY: Meantime, the protests that began at City Hall continue out on the street and demonstrators have planned more to come. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: December 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST
In the introduction to this report, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald is referred to as an "unarmed black teenager." In fact, he was holding a knife when he was shot.
Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.