ROCKFORD (WREX) — Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara had a strong message to the community on Sunday of rejecting violence and coming together.
Mayor McNamara addressed Saturday's protests saying: "You gathered for your voices can be heard and the city of Rockford hears your voices."
Mayor McNamara was joined on Sunday by Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea, Representative Maurice West, civic leaders and city council members on Sunday.
The protests on Saturday started off peaceful, but started to turn violent after 6:15 p.m. According to Chief Dan O'Shea, the chaos was sparked by out of town residents. The chief says roughly 10-15 people were arrested and numerous businesses were vandalized and looted. The chief says the department will have a confirmed number of arrests and looted businesses in the coming days.
Chief O'Shea said the looting and vandalism to businesses goes against everything Rockford and the community is.
"Rockford has to fight for everything it has. Everyone fights for what they got and they work their way up," said O'Shea.
Mayor McNamara said yesterday's protest isn't an isolated incident.
“I want people to realize that I can’t stand and I don’t condone rioting and looting, but I think we also have to understand that this is just a symptom,” McNamara said. “We are going to continue to repeat this cycle if we don’t recognize the reason for the anger and the frustration, which is real."
Other leaders who spoke on Sunday had a message similar to Mayor McNamara's: listening to each other and coming together as a community.
"If you want to make changes, come to the table," said Rhonda Greer Robinson, the president of the NAACP in Rockford. "We have to come together as a community."
Virgil Hobson, a board member with 100 Strong, a non-profit in Rockford, echoed the same sentiments on Sunday saying: "We're not just 100 Strong, we're 815 Strong."
Mayor McNamara spoke about change begins with listening and it starts at the top of the city.
"We need to be better, we need to be better at listening. That begins with me, it begins with our city," said McNamara.
The mayor ended the press conference with a message of unity for the city: "Your voices were heard, now let's act together."