Chicago Youth Protest Leader Calls for City's Police Department to be Defunded

December 10, 2015

A youth leader of the protest movement in Chicago that was triggered by the police shooting of a black teenager in 2014 wants to address what she views as systemic discrimination within local law enforcement by defunding the city's police department and allocating that money "to fund black futures."

Appearing on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports with guest host Peter Alexander, Breanna Champion of the Black Youth Project called it "unacceptable" that police receive 40 percent of the city's budget.

"One of our major demands is that police be defunded and that that money used to fund police be used to fund black futures, and be used to fund our communities and things that we need," Champion said.

Anti-police protests broke out in Chicago after the recent release of a police dash-cam video showing a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, shoot and kill 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who seemed to be walking away in the video, with 16 bullets. Van Dyke has since been charged with first-degree murder, 13 months after the incident.

The Chicago police department tried to keep the video from being shown to the public until a judge ordered that it should be released.

Since then protesters have taken to the streets, saying that the police department is corrupt and discriminatory against blacks. They have also called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign, alleging that he ordered the video to be covered up until after he won reelection in April. The Chicago mayor fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after the firestorm started.

Emanuel gave a passionate speech on Wednesday in which he apologized for any wrongdoing that occurred and promised to reform the police department, although he used vague language when describing his plans.

Champion said on MSNBC that removing the mayor from office is "not the main goal of the movement," but protestors will continue to demand his resignation. She also said it was necessary for Anita Alvarez, the Cook County State's Attorney, to resign as well.

The protest leader welcomed the Obama administration's move to launch a Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago police department because it will bring more publicity to her movement, and she promised "you can expect to see more protests."

There have been reports of similar incidents like the shooting of Laquan McDonald, leading to further outrage amongst protestors.

Chicago has the highest homicide rate of any city in the United States, with 2, 818 shooting victims so far this year and 6,944 murders between 2001 and 2014, and the main perpetrators of crimes committed against black Americans have been other black individuals.

It is unclear from her comments how Champion would specifically plan to use the money from a defunded Chicago police force to help the city's black community.