With rallies and walks, suburbanites condemn George Floyd's death, cry for racial unity
At the end of a two-hour "Walk for Justice" around the streets surrounding Woodfield Mall Friday evening in Schaumburg, organizer Reggie Hurdle shouted into his cellphone and cried, imploring viewers on the video he was making to "get up and do something" about racial unrest.
Earlier he used a megaphone to lead a crowd that started under 50 and grew to over 60 to "Remember his name: George!"
He said he was moved to do something about the racial and civil unrest sweeping the country after a black man named George Floyd died with his hands cuffed behind his back and a white police officer kneeling on his neck Monday in Minneapolis.
"At first I was confused," he said about seeing the video of the incident. "For a moment I wasn't even breathing."
As he thought more about it, he started making phone calls and decided to organize a peaceful rally and walk around his hometown Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. He used social media and asked for as many races of people as possible to join him.
"A lot of the issues we have is because we haven't had unity," he said before the march.
As the long walk started, the energy grew and horns honked while the group chanted and waved signs for unity.
"Why does it take a burning city to say 'stop killing people'?" asked marcher Mary Jane Vivero of Carpentersville.
Near the end of the walk, Donna M. Wattenbarger of Wheeling heard the group approaching as she waited for a takeout meal at the LongHorn Steakhouse on Golf Road. She sprang from her car and led the chanting for a few moments, imploring the group to be passionate about their cause.
"I'm angry," she said afterward. "They (police) are getting away with things that are wrong."
As the walk ended in the shopping mall parking lot, Hurdle stood before the group and told them, "You are all heroes."
Another rally took place in Joliet about the same time.
Faith Harris of Plainfield, who is biracial, said she has not watched police brutality videos in the past because she was afraid she would experience intense grief. She changed her mind this week and watched the Minneapolis incident.
As she was crying at 3 a.m. Tuesday, Harris said, her younger sister said, "Well what are going to do?" Faith said she figured she could at least call attention to the matter by having a small rally.
She picked 2-4:30 p.m. Friday at the busy intersection of Route 59 and Caton Farm Road in Joliet and posted her plan on Instagram.
More than 130 people showed up. And passing vehicles honked in support.
Her father, Steven, who is black, said he was proud that she got past her fear and spoke out. He said he suspects a lot of police officers would like to speak against what happened in Minneapolis and other such incidents but are afraid of repercussions.
He said he does not see it so much as a cop issue but a bad-person issue.
"It's not really about him (the officer) only," he said.
Harris' friend Natalie Sipes, who is white, said Harris really opened my eyes.
"I was just so disgusted by the way people reacted to the video," she said.
"I wanted to be on the active side of anti-racism."
Said Shea Borger, another marcher, "Silence is equally bad."