ROCKFORD (WREX) — The first protest against systemic racism in Rockford after the death of George Floyd was four weeks ago. On Thursday, protesters have the same goal as they continue to march.
Rockford Youth Activism and dozens of others marched around the Winnebago County Courthouse on Thursday. This time the group is calling out local officials and law enforcement to investigate police action from the first protest that turned violent in Rockford on May 30.
"I got pepper sprayed... simply because I was there in the moment," said Rockford Youth Activism Spokesperson Leslie Rolfe. "I wanted to bring awareness to the fact that we came out there on May 30 to protest police excessive force and police brutality and the end result was police brutality and police excessive force."
RYA says it's asking for charges against protesters to be immediately dropped. The group says without direct communication or change it is prepared to march more.
"The first sign of good faith is a transparency in letting the community and the people
know who used excessive force on May 30. Who brutalized on May 30? Who did these things, that multiple people are coming forward," said Rolfe.
"I'm still black. I am black 24/7. My family is black 24/7. It's not a trend. It's not a hashtag. It's who we are," said Rockford resident Kelsey Smith. "We need people to not stand behind us but to stand next to us, to be by our side."
The fight against inequality doesn't stop for Smith. That's why when tension runs high she says it's important to be open-minded.
"Share the information. We might not agree with you but we are asking your point of view," said Smith.
"Everybody that's out here does not have the same views or beliefs but I think it's important to be respectful," said Rolfe.
Protesters are still calling for Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea to step down.
"You can't just complain. You have to be a part of the solution. You can't just complain about a problem. We all want solutions. We encourage everyone to have a voice and speak out about wrongs that are going on in society but we also want everybody to come to the same table," said Chief O'Shea.
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara has repeatedly backed Chief O'Shea saying he's made strides with community policing.
Protesters' feet are planted and they're ready to see change now.