After their refusal to leave lobby of the federal courts building while protesting ex-cop Jason Van Dyke’s release, the ‘Laquan Nine’ face fines

Five women and four men who call themselves the “Laquan Nine” are facing federal fines for loitering in the lobby of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in the Loop as ex-cop Jason Van Dyke was being released from prison last week.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon Tuesday, each member faced a sanction hearing via video conference with U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer.

They included David Power, Ja’Mal Green, Justin Blake, William Calloway, Amber Leaks, Nataki Rhodes, Catherine Readling, Kina Collins and Cassandra Greer-Ramsey.

All but one of the nine are to pay a $200 fine. The exception was Readling who had an extra $50 tacked on for going to the courthouse equipped with a megaphone and “the intention for disturbance and disrespect for the court,” according to Pallmeyer.

The money will go toward the Crime Victims Fund which includes deposits from federal criminal fines and are collected by prosecutors, the federal court system and the Bureau of Prisons.

Some, including Collins, expressed remorse for their actions. In the hearing, she admitted to being part of an “inconvenience” to the court but stated that she and her fellow protesters wanted to amplify the name and the life of Laquan McDonald.

“Justice is difficult at this point,” Collins said. “Us in the community have been waiting more than eight years to get justice for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and are asking for the government to intervene.”

Van Dyke was released from state prison Thursday after serving a little more than three years behind bars for the 2014 murder of McDonald, a Black teenager, a shooting captured on police dashcam video that roiled the city.

Justin Blake, who is the uncle of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot by a Kenosha police officer in 2020 and left paralyzed, said he and the eight others were trying to assemble peacefully because they believe that federal charges should be brought against Van Dyke and that he should still be behind bars.

“We did break the rules,” Blake said. “But sometimes you have to march and re-march with counterparts in order to get things that we believe are just, and that’s historical.”

As with each defendant, Pallmeyer acknowledged their reasoning and explained why a fine of $200 was assessed.

“You are not being imposed because of your viewpoints,” Pallmeyer said of the fines to the “Laquan Nine.” “It’s rather because you refused to leave the courthouse lobby after more than an hour.”

The nine will also be barred from entering the courthouse for 60 days. The restriction would only be lifted for personal litigation matters.