'We mean business': Elgin activists continue to push for change
Black Lives Matter activists in Elgin are determined to keep the pressure on city officials to demand change -- and once again they made themselves heard, this time bright and early on Monday.
Seven protesters held a "cacerolazo" in front of the Elgin Police Department, banging kitchen utensils on pots and pans, with the sound reverberating along the otherwise quiet street.
"It shows that we mean business," said resident Andrew Moore, who organized the 2-hour protest by the group Elgin in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter. "There is a lot of momentum that's happening toward justice and equality and I don't want to stop after a busy holiday weekend."
Moore, who played loudly on a djembe, said he wanted the protest to coincide with the Elgin Police Department's shift change. Police officials said that happens at 6:30 a.m.
Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation and the suburbs after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in which four police officers face criminal charges. Several protests took place in Elgin.
Elgin activists have given a list of demands to the city: diverting funds from the police department to mental health, housing and other social services; forcing the resignation of Lt. Chris Jensen, who fatally shot resident Decynthia Clements in 2018; forming a citizens body that would oversee police internal investigations, discipline, hiring and contracts; removing police from schools; adding clear body camera procedures and strict enforcement; and allowing listening to police radio communications that currently are encrypted.
A majority of Elgin City Council members voted last month to require more police officers to live in town, hire an outside firm to investigate serious allegations of police misconduct, and add two more residents to the board of police and fire commissioners. The council plans to form a task force that will include residents to examine areas of improvement for the police department.
Police Chief Ana Lalley also plans initiatives such as establishing seven resident-led community advisory boards -- initially it was going to be eight, but the number was revised -- to discuss policing issues. Residents interested in applying to serve on a board can visit cityofelgin.org/CAB.
Clements' killing is like a wound that scabbed over but never healed, and the killing of George Floyd painfully brought it to the surface, resident Atoy Spates said. Elgin is a diverse city but there is racism, and she is now more than ever afraid of being pulled over by police, Spates said.
"We have been fighting for justice for Decynthia since 2018 and absolutely nothing has happened," she said. "It's beautiful to see people who want to keep going, who want to keep fighting, who want to keep using their voice in very provocative ways. It makes me really emotional. I'm so thankful that there are people now who have the momentum to fight for change."
Lindy Milnamow of West Dundee said these are hard conversations for a community, but they are necessary.
"We've all stayed silent for pretty long. I'm a pretty privileged white woman, so I am speaking up and waking up. I think the rest of us need to do the same thing."