A Letter To The Mayor & The City Council

President Heather McMeekan and members of our organization spoke at the open comment section at Macomb City Hall tonight. This letter is a call to action to the leaders of our community to respond to the rising incidence of acts of bigotry and intolerance in our community.

Heather McMeekan, President
Democratic Women of McDonough County
(309) 333-8801

November 4, 2019

Tonight I am speaking on behalf of the over 115 members of the Democratic Women of McDonough County in response to the article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Fear of a Black Campus,” by Jack Stripling, dated November 1, 2019. Source: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/20191101-Western-Race?cid=wsinglestory_hp_1

The entire article about our community was profoundly distressing, embarrassing, and consistent with the experiences of members of our organization, campus, and community. It shows a community that has chosen to ignore these issues for far too long. However, we wish to address specifically the abhorrent behavior described in the article by unknown person or person(s) in a “red truck” targeting some members of our community for behavior ranging from verbal harassment to explicit threats.

I personally witnessed a truck with that description displaying flags consistent with the White Supremacist movement in the Aldi’s parking lot in February of 2018. I have sent that photo to the Office of Public Safety Director Derek Watts and WIU’s President, Dr. Martin Abraham.

Our organization has members who have students, friends, or family members who have reported to us having had similar experiences with a truck matching that description. We have also had community members reach out to our organization over the past year with similar accounts, which we always encourage all to report to the police. However, in every single case, those reporting such incidents to us also have reported lack of trust in the police to properly investigate such incidents without retaliation against those making the complaint. Therefore, this behavior targets those already perceived as being marginalized and who also express the belief or perception they aren’t safe from our own police.

This perception has permitted this behavior to go unchecked, continuing to harm untold other victims, and appears to be escalating. Therefore, we, the Democratic Women of McDonough County, call on our City Leaders to respond to these concerns in a written response to the following requests as we urgently call on our city to:

  1. Open an investigation
  2. Issue a Proclamation declaring Macomb an open and welcoming city for all, AND
    • condemning all acts of bigotry and intolerance, AND
    • calling on ALL city and county boards, commissions, and committees to issue the same or sign on
  3. Encourage all City Council members to canvass their wards at least annually so they are regularly directly informed about the conditions in the city as experienced by those they represent
  4. Provide at least two method(s) of outreach to communicate, educate, and inform. Some examples City Council members in other communities provide include holding Town Halls, Coffee Conversations, online reporting forms, newsletters, FB pages, letters to the editor of the paper, etc.
  5. Put an online reporting form for such concerns on the city website
  6. Solicit information from the public about other possible sightings/experiences, ensuring a transparent reporting process to help community members feel safe when making such reports
  7. Fix the broken link for the “complaint reporting form” on the Macomb Police Department website, which has remained broken for many months
  8. Annually solicit data about the public perception regarding the culture and functioning of the leadership and members of the Macomb Police Department
  9. Publish an annual report detailing how such information informs police department leadership, hiring, training, advancement, and functioning
  10. Place that information on the city website, linked to a web form for solicitation of feedback from the community
  11. Update the city website listing for the “Police and Fire Commission” to include:
    • Dates, times of meetings
    • Contact info for all members
    • A description of the purpose, scope, and function of the commission
    • Links to all relevant governing documents and policies
    • Creation of a web form for all to submit a complaint/concern to the commission’s members
    • List the process for how to get on the agenda of the meeting

Finally, we wish to speak directly to the alleged perpetrators of such cowardly, disgusting acts of hatred and bigotry. Such behavior is unacceptable in society and will NOT be tolerated in this community. You are to cease such behavior immediately or be prepared for public consequences, up to and including the highest possible legal consequences for such morally indefensible behavior.

We request a formal, written response to each of our points of concern, and to address these requests with due urgency and transparency.

Respectfully Submitted,

Heather McMeekan, President
Democratic Women of McDonough County

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