ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Protesters marched along E. State Street in a “March Against Police Brutality and Racism” Thursday afternoon.
7:30 p.m. – Protesters returned to Saturn Park, with messages of keeping the momentum going with further protests in the planning stages for this weekend.
7:01 p.m. – Protesters began to head back toward Saturn Park where the protest started, making a loop back through Forest Plaza.
Protesters marched shouting both “I can’t breathe,” words spoken by George Floyd as he was held down by Minneapolis police officers before he died, and “No good cops in a racist system.”
Police kept their distance and blocked off traffic to allow the protesters space to march.
6:45 p.m. – Protesters stood in parking lot of Target and Hobby Lobby and chanted “Black Lives Matter” and read from a list of demands they sent in an open letter to the Rockford Police Department and city leaders.
6:20 p.m – Protesters observed an 8 minute and 45 second moment of silence by laying face down in the street with their hands behind their back, in honor of George Floyd, according to the organizer.
5:51 p.m. – A speaker from Rockford Youth Activism, and a woman who said she participated in protests in Minneapolis, spoke to a crowd gathered in the parking lot of Forest Plaza.
5:15 p.m. – Rockford Police have closed down E. State and Mulford due to the protest. “Mulford Road and Perryville Road and Mulford Road is closed between Guilford Road and Elaine Drive until further notice,” police said.
ORIGINAL POST – Protesters have planned to gather in Saturn Park, at 6540 Garrett Lane, at 5 p.m. and march to the former K-Mart on E. State Street, then to the Forest Plaza shopping center.
Organizers of the protest say they plan to lie down in the center of E. State Street during the event.
The group Rockford Youth Activism says the protest will be “non-violent” but “not peaceful,” and have made a list of demands for Rockford police and city leaders.
Protests against police in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, have led to looting and violence in cities across the nation.
As a precaution, several businesses along E. State have boarded up their storefronts.
The City of Freeport is imposing a curfew for Friday, June 5th, Saturday, June 6th, and Sunday, June 7th, from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m.
Gov. JB Pritzker expanded his disaster proclamation for counties under threat of looting and destruction to include Stephenson County on Wednesday.
The expanded proclamation is meant to aid local jurisdictions in efforts to keep their communities safe, and added Lake, Peoria, Rock Island, Williamson and Stephenson to the previously declared counties of Champaign, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Macon, Sangamon and Will.
A group called Rockford Youth Activism, which organized the protest, included on a list of demands that Rockford Police Dan O’Shea rescind his comments, which have since been widely shared on Twitter in light of the recent wave of protests in Rockford.
“I want to say, number one, that I do not agree with Chief O’Shea’s comments,” McNamara said at a press conference on Thursday.
The comments came from a May 18th press conference where O’Shea addressed a series of recent murders and shootings, and an incident in which a suspect had fired on police officers.
He was asked if Rockford Police were planning education and prevention programs for teens, following a wave of shootings and murders in the city.
O’Shea said, “The 16, 17-year-olds running around shooting each other, we’re not wasting our time trying to save them. They are lost. We’re trying to focus on 4 or 5-year-olds all the way up to 12 or 13, where we have a chance at saving them, changing their lives and changing the direction they are going in it. And we’re only a part of it. They need family, they need relatives, you know friends that will keep them on that path as well. Seventeen-year-olds that go around committing murders and shooting at people, yeah, well, sorry. Off to prison you go. I got nothing for you. Your family failed you up until this point and there is nothing that we can do for you.”
“Every single person who calls Rockford home is valuable. They’re worth fighting for,” McNamara said.