CHAMPAIGN COUNTY (WCIA) — What must’ve been a thousand or more peaceful protesters marched the streets of Urbana and Champaign Monday afternoon.
It was a stark contrast to the rioting and looting that took place along Prospect Ave. and Neil St. in Champaign on Sunday.
Those marching were inspired by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Both an independent medical examiner and the Hennepin Co. Coroner determined Floyd’s death to be a homicide on Monday.
Protesters were also marching in solidarity with Aleyah Lewis, whose arrest went viral in April after critics say Urbana Police used excessive force.
“Everyone that came out here knew the reason we came out here: we not doing anything violently,” explained Maurice Hayes, a protest organizer. “We not doin’ anything to disturb, or disrupt, or tear anything up, but we want our voices to be heard.”
One of the messages the group sent was that people of color are subject to brutal and deadly violence at the hands of police.
“With the state of things right now, everybody is seeing how bad it is,” said River Andres. “I think it’s been this bad for a while and I think a lot of people who are not black have not seen it. And I think the black people have been dealing with it and now all the sudden we have footage.”
Andres works with a group supporting Lewis’s defense.
“But it’s a continual thing that we have to talk about,” said Hayes. “But now we’re saying as a community, ‘you can see all the people. We’re saying, we’re tired of it now. We want to do something about it and it doesn’t have to be violent. You can do a peaceful movement.'”
Haki Shabazz, who spoke at a spin-off protest that marched through Champaign and Urbana, said people holding police accountable starts with protests like the one held on Monday.
“The UIPID (University of Illinois Police Dept.), the CPD (Champaign Police Dept.), and Urbana Police Department, they allowed us to march,” Shabazz said. “There was no antagonizing; there was no antagonization (sic) in order for us to become a peaceful demonstration. You have to allow the people to speak. You have to allow the children to speak. You have to allow the black lives to speak.”