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Rockford Youth Activism creates regional coalition against police brutality, condemns use of tear gas, batons on Saturday

ROCKFORD (WREX) — In an open letter released Monday night, Rockford Youth Activism calls for change it wants to see in the Rockford Police Department and criticizing the response from police during the Saturday's protest in front of RPD District 1.

Thousands of people marched through Rockford's streets Saturday, calling for justice in the death of George Floyd and the end of systemic racism in the US and in Rockford. The march that started at Haskell Park and ended at District 1 was peaceful.

"The protest on May 30th was a non-violent disruption in the spirit of the desegregation sit-ins or the freedom rides of the 1960s. There were people from all walks of life attending in solidarity. Organizers were very clear from the start that tactical non-violence was our orientation," Rockford Youth Activism said in the open letter.

However, things started to turn disruptive during the peaceful protest at District 1 when people tore off a sign, threw rocks and started vandalizing RPD property. As night fell, the atmosphere grew more tense, with shouting matches between protesters and police. Officers from multiple departments used tear gas and batons to try and disperse the crowds.

"Organizers are longtime Rockford residents who work within the community and they are very well aware of what the city and the police have done to silence or co-opt voices for justice in the past. We believe that there is a need for disruption of the normal state of things if social
change is to occur in this city and across the country. We aren’t going to parade and go home," the letter went on to say.

If you would like to read the open letter in full, go to the bottom of this story.

Rockford Youth Activism creates Regional Coalition Against Police Brutality.

Rockford Youth Activism announced a partnership in its open letter with concerned community members, to create the Regional Coalition Against Police Brutality. RYA says the black-lead coalition will "empower underserved communities in non-traditional ways so that their voices will be heard."

The Regional Coalition Against Police Brutality released a list of actions it wants to see from the Rockford Police Department.

  • RCAPB calls for Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea to rescind "insensitive language he used during recent press conferences." On May 18, 2020, 13 WREX aired a news conference the Rockford Police Department organized to address recent violent crime in the city. During the news conference, O'Shea said, "17-year-olds that are going around committing murders and shooting at people, I don't know-- sorry, off to prison you go. I got nothing for you. Your family failed you up to this point and there's nothing I can do for you."
  • RCAPB calls for Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and city leaders to make body cameras a "number one priority and provide local funding for equipment and software, and until said equipment is obtained and in use we call for the Mayor and city leadership to reign in/cease and desist the Rockford Police Department."
  • RCAPB wants an "investigation into alleged acts of violence at the hands of Rockford police officers during the May 30 protests."
  • RCAPB wants the "Federal Bureau of Investigation to re-examine the murders of Demetrius Bennet, Logan Bell, Kerry Blake, and Micheal Sago Jr."
  • RCAPB calls for an "initiative to demilitarize the police, by liquiding such assets, and diverting resources to areas that have been economically divested from."
  • RCAPB calls for organizations and leaders to start having serious conversations about moving "beyond police as the only source of safety in our communities and try to imagine what community based forms of safety would look like."

To read the list of demands in full, see the PDF below. If you would like to work with Rockford Youth Activism, email coalitionrcabp@gmail.com.

Breane Lyga

Breane Lyga is the content manager at 13 WREX. She joined the team in 2015 as the 5, 6 and 10PM news producer after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She was 13 WREX’s assignment editor from 2017 to 2018.

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