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McNamara responds to recent protests, arrests: ‘We need to reject systemic and ingrained racism’

ROCKFORD (WREX) — Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara took to social media to respond to the recent arrests and protests happening in the city surrounding police.

Since Friday, about 15 people have been arrested during protests against police brutality and racism.

The protesters, loosely associated with Rockford Youth Abolitionists and the May 30th Alliance, have been gathering since late May after George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. The groups have called for change across the nation and the world.

Around 7 p.m. Friday night, Rockford Police arrested nine protesters during demonstrations outside of the City Market pavilion. On Saturday morning after a Back the Blue rally was held, more protesters were taken into custody after police asked them to leave and they did not.

Read below McNamara's full statement posted on Facebook Sunday in response to the recent developments, including when a deputy's son assisted in the arrest of a protester.

"There have been a number of high-tension incidents in our community in the last 48 hours that I want to address.

The Rockford Police Department and Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office lawfully arrested numerous people on Friday night on East State Street near the City Market pavilion. I appreciate the work of both departments as they work to keep our streets safe for all citizens and visitors.

During the arrests, there were reports of citizens assisting officers and deputies. Though we may have seen a legal explanation that citizens have the right to be involved, I want to be clear--we do not need or want civilians engaging in police activities when the scene is under control by law enforcement.

I am extremely concerned by a Facebook post by State Rep. and Rockford Police Officer John Cabello that was worded at worst to incite violence and at best not promote peace. We must expect high levels of professionalism and performance from those who serve and represent us and his post was incendiary and not befitting of a public servant.

Perhaps most disturbing, I also have read disgusting comments, personal attacks and threats to community members involved in the debates and discussions on these issues. In a community working to improve itself, this is simply not acceptable.

No one in our community should have family attacked or have threats against them for voicing their opinion. We need to reject systemic and ingrained racism as a community. If you don’t think it exists, you clearly have not been paying attention. Rockford’s diversity should unite us and our Rock River should bring us together. We are better than this and we must be better than this.

These are difficult days. In the middle of a global pandemic, we’re having long-overdue discussions on race, class, policing, human rights and other planks of the fundamental foundation of our American society. There are more commonalities that bind us together than those that can split us apart. We are truly strongest when we reject the calls to stand apart and will only move forward when we work together to replace what is broken.

This Monday the first of a number of items will be read into City Council - the use of body cameras by police. By the end of August, I will bring forward a number of additional recommendations to the Council and our community from our listening sessions.

These may include, among other items, additional training, how we handle mental health crisis calls and how we more strategically reinvest in our people and in under-served areas of our community. If you have additional suggestions, e-mail communications@rockfordil.gov. If you want to tell your story, sign up at www.tellyourstoryrockford.com

Let’s use these difficult and, at times, chaotic conversations as opportunities. I am committed to joining those who want to create policies, practices and solutions that form a stronger community where everyone is valued and has an opportunity to thrive."

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13 WREX Newsroom

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