Race, politics, police reform and Van Dyke highlight Chicago mayoral forum

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the city marked this Martin Luther King Day, race, politics and criminal justice reform converged during a mayoral candidate forum Monday. And the sentence for Jason Van Dyke in the murder of Laquan McDonald continues to simmer as an issue in the Chicago mayor's race.

"This verdict that just came out two days ago is all wrong," said Dr. Willie Wilson, Candidate for Mayor.

The Jason Van Dyke sentence is now a rallying cry in the mayor's race for real reform in the criminal justice system.

WATCH: Jason Van Dyke sentenced to 81 months in Laquan McDonald shooting
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Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to 6 years, 9 months in prison for the murder of Laquan McDonald in 2014.

"Those challenges were readily apparent last week in the decision that acquitted three officers who covered up Laquan McDonald's murder, and the sentence for Jason van Dyke of 81 months," Toni Preckwinkle said.

"We have to recognize and confront the state of segregation in this city, it's at the root cause of the lot of the problems we're experiencing," added Gery Chico.

At the forum held at Liberty Baptist Church, in Bronzeville, many of the candidates spoke about broken trust in police and the system, and the impact of the Van Dyke sentence.

"We thought we had taken a step forward when the verdict was ready, this was a step back for us so it shows there's a lot of work that still need to be done," said Amara Enyia.

"I think it does set things back, but at the end of the day we need to focus on what are we going to do avoid future Laquan McDonalds, to avoid this type of thing from happening in the future," said Susana Mendoza.

"Everybody talks about reestablishing trust," said Garry McCarthy. "You cannot reestablish something that we've never had."

The words of Martin Luther King invoked by one candidate for emphasis.

"Racial understanding is not something that we find, it's something that we create," said Lashawn Ford.

The need for change a shared cause in the crowded mayor's race.

"I think the way you build community trust is by allocating resources in ways that can rebuild these communities that have been literally economic deserts for decades," said Paul Vallas.

"Trust is built by a good professional police department, we haven't had one in many, many years," said Bob Fioretti.

"You have all that experience why are we still talking about the same problems," added John Kozlar, who at 30 years old is the youngest mayoral candidate.

And now there is a push for the feds to produce something from their investigation of the Laquan McDonald case launched in 2015.

"I think it's critically important like with the Rodney King case that the US Attorney's office use it its federal grand jury powers to assess whether or not officers that were involved violated the civil rights of Laquan McDonald and I think there should be some indictments that come out of that," said Lori Lightfoot.

Due to the government shutdown, the public information office at the U.S. Attorney's office is not staffed and so no one was available for comment.
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