In response to police shooting of Adam Toledo, DuPage activists call for collaboration
While speaking to heightened tensions between police and people of color Monday, Casildo Casey Cuevas of Aurora gestured toward a white wooden cross beside him with the word "love" painted inside a red heart.
Given to him by the late Greg Zanis, an Aurora carpenter who built crosses for shooting victims, he said, the structure serves as a symbol of hope and a reminder that love rules out hate -- a relevant message in the wake of the March 29 shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and other recent killings by law enforcement officers.
"How can we move forward ... when minorities live in fear, when racism, bigotry, xenophobia and atrocities are accepted by some who serve society?" Cuevas said. "We need leaders, not dividers. We need unity. We need inclusivity. We need love."
That sentiment was echoed by DuPage-area activists, clergy and elected leaders who stood along the Naperville Riverwalk in solidarity with Toledo's family and the Latino community. Their goal is to encourage change and collaboration with law enforcement to ensure young people of color make it home safely after an encounter with police, said co-organizer Regina Brent, founder and president of Unity Partnership.
Event organizers are calling for demonstrations to remain peaceful in response to Toledo's death, as well as the impending verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged in the death of George Floyd. The case, which went to the jury Monday, fueled large protests and civil unrest last summer in Naperville, Aurora and other Chicago-area communities.
"We always say where there is no justice, there's no peace. But there has to be peace in order for us to sit down and iron out our differences," Brent said. "Things can always get better if we just come together."
Though unaware of any planned protests or threats of violence after the conclusion of the Chauvin trial, several suburban law enforcement leaders say they are monitoring events nationwide and staging additional resources out of precaution. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is activating the Illinois National Guard to support the Chicago Police Department beginning Tuesday, at the city's request.
Meanwhile, DuPage County activists say they are working with law enforcement leaders to spur meaningful change and offer members of Black and brown communities a platform to express their concerns.
Action items proposed by Wheaton-based Immigrant Solidarity DuPage include implementing independent oversight of police departments, demilitarizing police forces, encouraging diversity among departments to reflect the communities they serve, and investing in jobs, health care, housing, education and other efforts aimed at dismantling poverty.
Unity Partnership also is hoping to strengthen relationships with local chiefs and formalize a citizen collaboration board that will give community members a voice in matters related to policing, Brent said.
"We cannot do without the police, and the police cannot do without the community, but they take an oath to serve and protect us," she said.