After dash-cam video footage of Laquan McDonald’s shooting was finally released to the public in 2015 ― more than a year after the 17-year-old died at the hands of police ― rapper Vic Mensa took to the streets of Chicago in protest. Now, with the 2016 election weeks away, the southside Chicago native is looking back on the moment and how it pushed him to get engaged with local politics.
In the first video from Vevo’s “Why I Vote” series, the artist recounted the moment he clashed with police while protesting McDonald’s death. Mensa had been rallying in honor of McDonald, when protesters clashed with police officers and he said he was “grabbed” by the cops.
“They grabbed me,” he said. “And then everybody came over there and they were like, ‘Let him go! Let him go!’ We hadn’t broken any laws. We were just organizing on the street as is our right as Americans.”
That altercation sparked his interest in local politics. Mensa was already a vocal advocate for certain socio-political issues like institutionalized racism and police violence through his style, music and tweets, but the McDonald shooting and his subsequent run-in with police pushed him to take his frustrations to the polls.
“The main reason I went out in the primary was to vote for Kim Foxx and against the state’s attorney Anita Alvarez,” he said of the local election in Cook County, Illinois, which took place in March.
Alvarez, who faced serious criticism for her handling of the McDonald shooting, lost that Democratic primary race in a landslide, paving the way for Foxx to take on Republican Christopher Pfannkuche in the general race for state attorney this November.
“That’s just an example of how empowering it can be to vote for your local officials,” he said. “That’s how you can most directly make some type of change.”