McNamara, O’Shea offer meet with organizers ahead of Tuesday’s planned protest of Rockford police

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and Chief Dan O’Shea have offered to meet with organizers planning to protest Rockford Police tonight, in hopes of starting a dialogue, the City said Tuesday.

A group called Rockford Youth Activism is calling for a protest “to demand justice for all past victims of violence at the hands of Rockford police,” and has organized for the event to take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. beginning at Haskell Park on N. Church Street.

The protest was initially set to be held at Beattie Park until the Native Awareness Committee asked that it be moved, due to the park being a Native American burial ground.

The City of Rockford said in a tweet Tuesday “We are aware that another protest is planned for today. We support peaceful protests and the right of individuals to express their frustration and anger. We support those who speak loudly so they are finally heard. However, we cannot condone violence, destruction and looting.

“We encourage protest participants to express themselves in a safe and peaceful manner. The safety of our residents, officers and the community is our top priority.”

“Mayor Tom McNamara reached out to the organizers and is hoping that he and Police Chief Dan O’Shea can meet with them today to begin dialogue ahead of the protest,” the City said.

Rockford Youth Activism was also behind the May 30th protest against police brutality in the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of the Minneapolis police last Monday. The officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck in a widely seen video was fired and subsequently charged with Third Degree Murder and Manslaughter.

Earlier Saturday, before the protests turned violent, protesters met at Haskell Park in Rockford and marched throughout downtown Rockford and to the Rockford District 1 Headquarters. There, protesters provoked police retaliation after the crowd threw rocks at the building and vandalized a sign. Police ordered the crowd to disperse and fired tear gas.

For Tuesday’s protest, the Rockford Youth Activism group said on Facebook, “Still we stand in solidarity with the uprising in Minneapolis. We are also standing against the police brutality (beatings, tear gassing and tazing) which occurred on May 30th. We would love for as many people as possible to come while also adhering to social distancing so make sure you bring your mask. Black voices will be focused. White allies are encouraged to attend but also realize that this is a black centered event.”

Rockford Youth Activism Monday announced the formation of the Rockford Coalition Against Police Brutality, which presented the following list of demands to city leaders:

1. Firstly, We called for police Chief Dan O’shea to rescind his insensitive language he
used during recent press conferences. We believe this language not only ignores a bigger
socioeconomic problem but also places a target on the backs of black youth.

(O’Shea’s comments were made at a May 18th news conference following several deadly nights of gun violence and murders in Rockford. See the full press conference here.)

2. We call on the Mayor and city leadership to make body cams a number one priority and provide local funding for equipment and software,  and until said equipment is obtained and in use we call for  the Mayor and city leadership to  reign in/cease and desist the Rockford Police Department that began aggressively violating the human rights and racial profiling African Americans by pulling them over & searching them. One incident has been caught on tape.

3. We want an investigation into the violence at the hands of RPD during the protests near RPD District 1 on May 30th, 2020. There is a YouTube video in which an officer repeatedly kicked someone while the person was already detained. That must be investigated and the officers responsible should be fired.

4. We want the Federal Bureau of Investigation to re-examine the murders of Demetrius Bennet, Logan Bell, Kerry Blake, and Micheal Sago Jr.

5. The city must begin an initiative to demilitarize the police, by liquiding such assets, and diverting resources to areas that have been economically divested from. The police at this point from the photos on Saturday May 30th looked more like an occupying army than a group of people meant to keep people safe. That must change immediately.

6. Organizations and Community Leaders need to start having more serious conversations about moving beyond police as the only source of safety in our communities and try to imagine what community based forms of safety would look like. The basis of policing within this country has always been to maintain social control of black people.

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