Protests and demonstrations erupted in Chicago Tuesday night, leading to the arrest of four individuals, including poet and activist Malcolm London. The events began after graphic video footage was released by Chicago officials, showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him. CNN reports that Van Dyke was charged Tuesday night with first-degree murder, the most severe count the 14 year veteran police officer could have faced.
Perhaps it was the murder charge — a rarity, as most police officers are not charged after a fatal shooting in the line of duty — that kept the majority of the protests and demonstrations peaceful. Still, as the night continued there were some dramatic standoffs between civilians and police officers, as hundreds took to the Chicago streets and interstate to voice their concern over seemingly never-ending and often fatal police brutality.
Four individuals were arrested during the protests and Malcolm London, a leading activist, was among them. According to The Chicago Tribune, authorities charged London with aggravated battery against a police officer, alleging the 22-year-old Chicago native punched a police officer. Before long, #FreeMalcolmLondon was trending on Twitter, as fellow activists and demonstrators came to his defense, demanding his release and insisting he was standing peacefully when he was targeted by police and arrested without cause.
Suddenly, people around the country who had never head of London, became familiar with his work and concerned for his freedom. Here are nine things you need to know about London, his tireless activism, and his prolific work.
1. He's Part Of The "We Charge Genocide" Delegation
We Charge Genocide is a "grassroots, international effort to center the voices and experiences of young people most targeted by police violence in Chicago." In November of 2014, London and seven others made a presentation to the United Nations, speaking about police violence and ceremoniously charging the Chicago Police Department with genocide.
2. He's A Prolific Poet
London made his name as a poet in 2011, after he won the "Louder Than A Bomb" poetry slam in Chicago.
3. He Gave A Powerful Ted Talk
Following his 2011 graduation from Chicago's Lincoln Park High School, London gave a moving Ted talk about his experience as a young, black high school student in a city like Chicago.
4. He Attends The University of Chicago
London attends University of Illinois at Chicago and is a member and co-chair of BYP100 Chicago Chapter, a national organization of black activists and organizers.
5. He's Been Featured In Numerous National Outlets
According to London's website, his work has been featured nationally by outlets like CBS, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Root, and The Chicago Tribune. Most of these features were done when London was just 21 years old.
6. He Declined A Meeting With Chicago's Mayor
While other Chicago activists accepted Mayor Rahm Emanuel's offer to sit down and talk, London declined. "This isn't about political opportunity," he told Fox Chicago. "This is about people's lives. I'd rather have a mayor that would outright speak about this and not use it as a political opportunity."
7. He's A Youth Advocate
According to London's website, he is "regularly visits high schools, youth jails, colleges, and communities to work with students," to improve the Chicago public education system.
8. He's A Young Chicago Authors Staff Member
London is a teaching artist on staff at Young Chicago Authors, a program working to transform the lives of young people by cultivating their voices through writing, publication and performance education.