Elgin protesters ask for support from white 'allies'
In the fight against racism and systemic injustice, the active support of white people is crucial, speakers at a protest in Elgin said Tuesday night.
"To our white brothers and sisters who support our cause, we thank you for your love, and we ask you for more," Pastor Mark Spates Smith said during the "Peaceful Grieving for Black Lives" protest. "Your silence must not be noticed. Your idealism for liberation must be as loud as it would if the shoe were on the other foot."
Spates Smith, of Spates Temple Church in Elgin, got some of the biggest applause and cheering from the crowd of about 250 people during an event that featured impromptu speakers rallying the crowd to seek justice for the death of George Floyd and exhorting people to remember all the black victims of police force who came before him. Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer held him to the ground by pressing a knee against his neck.
Another speaker, a white man, told the crowd to remember that white privilege is real. "Don't let other people tell you it doesn't exist, because it does."
There were chants of "No Justice, No Peace" and lots of honking from cars passing by. The event started in front of city hall, then moved across the street in front of the police department, where the crowd spilled onto Douglas Avenue and blocked traffic.
Friends Anna Flores and Tiffany Valdez, who live in Elgin, said Floyd's death and the activism that has swept the nation inspired them to attend their first "Black Lives Matter" protest.
"I wanted to contribute something," Flores said. "Even something as small as a protest, it's something helpful," Valdez agreed.
For Julie Carley of Elgin, it was to teach her children Caleb, 6, and Layla, 13, about the fight for justice and against racism.
"As a family, it's just important to do this, especially being a biracial family," said Carley, whose husband, Jeremy, is Indian, "to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement."
The crowd also chanted "Justice for Decynthia" and "Fire Jensen," a reference to the police officer who shot and killed Decynthia Clements of Elgin in 2018 after she came out of a car holding two knives after she was pulled over on the Jane Addams Tollway. Jensen returned to duty after an independent investigation.
Police Chief Ana Lalley addressed the crowd, pointing to the things the police department has done in the wake of Clements' shooting, such as creating a collaborative crisis services unit. Elgin also was an early adopter of body cameras.
Still, the crowd continued to ask for Jensen's firing.
The event was organized by Rachel Elizabeth Maley, the owner of Still Life Meditation in downtown Elgin, which might open in July.
"I framed it as a peaceful grieving time," she said, "because it's important for us to acknowledge these feelings of grief, sadness and anger." She said it's crucial to acknowledge the difference between those who grieve when they read about police brutality in the news and communities who live within that reality.
"I hope this will make allies and nonblack people be inspired not simply to be allies but to be activists and use their power, and empower other people."
Another protest took place Monday night and more are scheduled in the coming days.