Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
November 25, 2015

That Photo of the Officer at the Laquan McDonald Protest Last Night

It’s is an odd and suggestive photograph (#19 out of 29) that appeared in the Chicago Trib slideshow of the Laquan McDonald protest last night.

What was unique about this black life lost to a homicidal police officer (beside the extent of the slaughter) was the long and careful machinations to stifle the release of the video. Once the city was ordered to a year after the event, the release was timed to immediately proceed the charging of the officer with murder.

The photo, by Trib photographer Nuccio DiNuzzo, was taken outside Chicago police headquarters. Of course it was cold last night. Symbolically, though, the composition (enhanced by both officers and protesters seeming to look upon the subject), the expression and, especially, the material over the officer’s face seems to offer something for all sides.

• On one level, the covering mirrors masks worn by all the soldiers and rebels overseas that flood the newswire. We know many people are equating the killing, and police violence, with state terrorism. That parallel has only amplified since the terror attack in France, and the consequent demonizing of Muslims in the presidential campaign.

• Consistent with the extreme care to prepare the public for the video and avoid violence, he looks like he’s been gagged.

• And there are those who’ll insist — the eyes cast askance evoking victimization — that the city has been taken hostage.

Ultimately though, what’s significant about the photo is its S&M vibe. Black shirt or muzzle, the discrepancy mirrors the fracture and the violence surrounding race, power and control.

(photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune. caption: A police officer stands in front of Chicago police headquarters, Nov. 24, 2015. Activists took to the streets in reaction to the release of a police dash-cam video showing the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17, by a Chicago police officer in October 2014.)

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