For Immediate Release
Man who fought for release of LaQuan McDonald footage speaks to UIC Media and Professional Writing Class
CHICAGO, ILL. October 27, 2016 – An English 202 Media and Professional Writing class, at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), welcomed Brandon Smith as a guest speaker. During this period, he offered insight on his experiences in dealing with the case of McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Officer James Van Dyke. The Chicago Police Department, initially, said only one shot was fired. However, McDonald’s autopsy, obtained by reporter Jamie Kalven, and the released graphic footage showed otherwise.
“My motive in life is to fight for the truth and to write for things that matter,” said the freelance writer to the 24 students.
Six months’ past, the city officials and authorities not only fabricated the truth but they never mentioned the existence of a video. After Smith reviewed McDonald’s autopsy, he realized that “the case [LaQuan McDonald] should see the light of day.” He wrote to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), he was rejected, but he never gave up. He consulted an attorney to discuss the exemptions of FOIA. After speaking with his lawyer, Matt Topic, he learned that “in the state of Illinois, you do not have to fund the attorney if they win the case against FOIA; the government pays them.”
Smith and his attorney initiated a lawsuit and won, and the video was ready for immediate release. “Not only does it make me feel good, but it also puts my talents to use,” declared the activist.
As of right now, Smith is uncertain if he will be able to do something similar to or better than McDonald’s case. But, one thing we know for sure is that Smith would gladly do this all over again. “Suing the government trains the departments to operate in a transparent way. It teaches them a lesson that they cannot disregard the law,” Smith explained.
Although Smith’s search for a full-time job as a “journalist and activist” is still a work in progress, he is continuing his work as a freelancer while hoping for greater honesty, justice, and transparency in the media. “What sets one apart is documenting and making a positive change in the world, and you earn readership by fighting for truths to help people out.”