Public Comment: #Justice4Ariel

This public comment is being submitted on behalf of the Democratic Women of McDonough County. We wish to alert our community to pay attention and respond to a miscarriage of justice in progress against a disabled, traumatized Black mother who is a victim of what we believe to have been possible excessive force, assault, police cover-up, McDonough County jail negligence, and possible prosecutorial misconduct or incompetence (at best).

Ariel Harrison is a petite woman who is blind in one eye. For a suspected DUI, FOIA’d evidence suggests she was brutally yanked out of her vehicle, man-handled by the Macomb Police Department officers, and taken to jail.
Evidence strongly suggests she sustained an apparent closed head injury during the takedown. She was left unconscious in the jail for an undetermined amount of time, awakening with 5 taser marks on her body, bruises, and a closed head wound visibly apparent on her forehead, which wasn’t even mentioned in the report.

The jail failed to provide nor seek ANY medical aid for her, failing to even ensure she was safe from risk of developing intracranial bleeding, concussion, or more serious traumatic brain injury. Refusal of medical attention is a severe human rights violation and must be investigated.

SHE COULD HAVE DIED.

ALL persons rendered UNCONSCIOUS in the jail MUST be properly evaluated by qualified medical professionals in the nearest healthcare facility. This was NOT done.

Now she is being pressured to accept a bad plea deal by her public defender, a pattern against Black community members for whom we have submitted credible evidence of police brutality against them to the Illinois Attorney General.

We believe a cover-up threatens to allow our justice system send this partially blind, traumatized Black mother to jail to hide the truth from the public. We asked the County Board to investigate the allegations. They have failed to do so. The IL Attorney General’s Office is investigating, but that will take time, and time has run out for this Black victim of police brutality.

We demand the Macomb Police Department be investigated for this and the many other complaints being shared with the Illinois Attorney General, the ACLU of Illinois, and we demand that all charges be dropped.

Please consider joining us this Tuesday as we demand JUSTICE for Ariel by gathering outside the McDonough County Courthouse at 8:00 a.m. to witness this case.

Our petition calling for Chief Barker to step down and the Macomb Police Department to be investigated is approaching 10.5 thousand signatures today. When can we expect the City Council and Mayor to even acknowledge it?

Our community deserves answers. The Macomb Police Department’s refusal to hold press briefings nor answer journalist’s questions for over two weeks represents a disgraceful lack of transparency and allows the Chief to evade any accountability. Chief Barker must step down and the Macomb Police Department must stop obstructing journalist’s questions on this and other issues.

Submitted by:
Heather McMeekan, PresidentDemocratic Women of McDonough County

Disrupted Justice

RJC Group Witness Summary: This is a summary of what our Racial Justice Coalition witnessed at the Macomb City Council on Monday, June 15 2020.

Several of our members and community members who have experienced police brutality from MPD had submitted comments per the Council’s posted rules, but which were not read AT ALL nor reported in the paper. [City claims tech incompetence.]

We have submitted a complaint to the Illinois Attorney General based upon the racist disruption techniques and silencing we witnessed, which we believe to be possible violations of the Open Meetings Act, and because they were silencing crime victims of police harassment, possibly a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Our Observer’s Grouped Summary

What transpired at the City Council Meeting Monday night was a travesty of justice against those desperately trying to be heard about their traumatizing, frightening, and abusive experiences at the hands of far too many officers of the Macomb Police Department and Chief Barker.

We have a Black community in need of our elected officials to step up and hear them. Instead, tonight, we watched many of them be silenced.

Dr. Rutledge honored us all with her attendance during the city council meeting. The honored doctor attempted to call for the mayor to publicly address his concerns with the current events of police brutality in America. The council responded by telling Dr. Rutledge she has used all her time for public comment and effectively silenced the issue.

An attendee of the meeting, Celeste, asked in the online chat “Question on this: will this ever spill over to a policy for the community?” when the council was voting on the Drug & Alcohol-Free policy. This question was not addressed by the council.

It is unfortunate to witness the city council members not address the concerns of a community member. Concern over this policy should have been addressed because it is possible for this policy to be used as additional grounds to target community members of color who are already deemed “suspicious” through racial profiling.

Celeste also raised her hand in the meeting to ask further questions and was again ignored by the council. Celeste pointed out that she was never given the opportunity by the council to ask her question. The council responded that the meeting was adjourned. Celeste pointed out that she had her hand raised for several minutes and the council failed to address her, and they even went as far as putting her hand down in the Zoom meeting.

When members of our Racial Justice Coalition tried to counter the factually inaccurate statements being made by the white city council members to move them to discussing actions, they disabled the chat.

The city council claims we can come to them to report instances of racism in the community, but this proved to be an empty and misinformed sentiment. Maya Lee attempted to ask the council “What are the concrete ways community members can report racism?” The council failed to answer the question, but continued making claims that we can go to them to report racism.

This was an important question that deserved to be addressed during the official council meeting because it serves to educate the public on how to document discrimination and call for change. Becky Danner attempted to inform the council “What you do not understand is that because of abuse, those being mistreated will not come to you.”

The city council failed to address her concern. This is a valid concern because the city council is predominately white and holds power in the community.

It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to make the council aware of racism when that further puts their lives at risk. Marginalized populations don’t feel safe talking to people in their position because they have the power to retaliate. It is the job of public servants to address the racism in their community rather than turning a blind eye to it and simply pretending it doesn’t exist because they don’t experience it firsthand.

Racial Justice never looks like white people in power proclaiming themselves approachable & willing to “help.”

Offering up assurances, they’ll “work with” the marginalized, traumatized community members they have steadfastly turned their backs on – repeatedly – is more white power controlling who gets heard, by whom, under what conditions.

The facts are that the city council is aware of racism in Macomb, they just fail to take action to address it and keep vulnerable people in their community safe. Heather McMeekan made the bold statement “We’ve been telling you all this for over a year. And you’ve done nothing at all. Talk.” in reference to how the city council has repeatedly been informed for racism in the community.

Despite their awareness, they continue to pretend they don’t know about the deep seeded issues with racism in Macomb, and they continue to place the responsibility on the victims of racism to make them “aware.”

Mimi requested from the council “Let’s do more than just talk. Let’s TAKE ACTION.” A city council should be requested to act when there is racism in their area because they are public servants in the position to generate systemic change. They should not respond to calls for action by silencing the public. It is instead the job of city officials to serve the public.

Another tactic the council used during the meeting to silence discussion on racial injustice in Macomb was allowing for racist interference. Kathy Olesen-Tracey, another attendee of the city council meeting, tried to raise awareness on this issue during the meeting by commenting “In case the people calling in, this speech is being disrupted with profanity and videos.” This was to make all the attendees aware of interference in the online meeting during Dr. Abraham’s speech on racial injustice in the Macomb community.

The meeting was repeatedly spammed with media containing slurs from racist attendees who intended to silence the experiences of black people living in Macomb.

This interference issue was not adequately addressed by the host of the meeting. A host can mute the cameras and microphones of all attendees. Muting attendees during Dr. Abraham’s speech would have stopped the racist attacks.

Mimi, an attendee of the meeting, requested “Can you guys please momentarily mute the other participants? It’s not that hard to do. Thank you, Dr. Abraham, for speaking the truth.” The council did not meet her request. Dr. Abraham was repeatedly interrupted while trying to amplify the black voices of our community. There is reason to believe that the decision to allow interference was not based on technological difficulties.

Remember, when public officials were called to action to address the racism present in Macomb, the council responded by disabling the chat. This effectively stopped the public from being able to call for change from the city and shows that the council is willing to act on their ability to silence people. Yet the council failed to act to prohibit racist interference and allowed an important speech on racial injustice to be derailed.

White city councilpersons who, for over a year, have steadfastly refused to engage in any meaningful outreach to the Black community should not proclaim themselves approachable and willing to address anything but protecting the existing unacceptable status quo of white privilege and power deciding which community members they deem acceptable to be heard.

Instead of discussing concrete actions, they offered up their feelings about racism. The Mayor and white City Council members feelings are immaterial to dismantling structural racism and holding racist police officers accountable. When white feelings are being discussed by white people in power, Black voices are silenced. As happened here again.

Elected officials silencing, pivoting to white feelings and white experiences, and disruption of the voices speaking their truths being hidden from the public is unacceptable.

The city council’s behavior is deeply offensive and hurtful to our members and the many, MANY Black victims of the Macomb Police Department who have been trying to get him to even acknowledge the harm.

They stopped the public from being made aware of concerns about police harassment of Black youths just this past weekend by a Macomb Police Officer. The victim’s email was not read into the public record as promised, nor were the emails in support of our petition calling for Chief Barker’s removal.

Apparently, a City Council meeting is not the place to be heard if you want to stop a police officer from misusing their power and authority against Black people here still waiting for public audience from a white city hall who clearly doesn’t intend to grant it.

  • In summary, attendees of the meeting watched on as the council repeatedly manipulated procedural guidelines to silence public comment using what appears to be disruption techniques.
  • The council failed to address the public’s concerns on issues with racism in Macomb.
  • They failed to read accounts of police misconduct into public record.
  • The host permitted repeated interference containing racial slurs to silence a speech detailing racial injustice in Macomb by failing to temporarily mute the attendees of the meeting upon request.
  • There is a double standard when it comes to who public officials choose to silence.

Community members calling for action from the city to address racism are expeditiously shut down by the council. Interference from racist attendees is enabled countless times through failure to act.

Accounts are accurate to best of our knowledge from firsthand experience and saved chat files from the Zoom meeting.

The City Council can help ensure accuracy by doing their job to provide the public of minutes from the city hall meetings as it is stated they will do on their website.

Saved Chat

17:46:05 From Celeste : Question on this; will this ever spill over to a policy for the community?
17:49:22 From h_mcmeekan : #BlackAtWIU is the Twitter Hashtag to see the other posts.
17:49:32 From Becky Danner : very true, Racism is all too real in Macomb
17:49:53 From h_mcmeekan : https://www.change.org/p/mayor-michael-inman-macomb-police-chief-barker-must-go-investigate-macomb-p-d/dashboard
17:51:55 From kathy olesen-tracey : In case the people calling in, this speech is being disrupted with profanity and videos.
17:52:23 From kathy olesen-tracey : Thank you Dr. Abraham
17:53:46 From Maya Lee : Thank you for continuing despite interruption. Your message and the stories you are sharing are important
17:54:40 From Mimi : Can you guys please momentarily mute the other participants? It’s not that hard to do. Thank you Dr. Abraham for speaking the truth.
17:55:10 From h_mcmeekan : Thank you Dr. Abraham. #BlackLivesMatter
17:55:17 From Becky Danner : Your so right Dr Abraham!
17:55:29 From Mimi : Let’s do more than just talk. Let’s TAKE ACTION.
17:56:15 From Morrow Owens : Yes thank you Dr. Abraham, we appreciate you speaking out about your experiences. It’s incredibly important that we hear these stories and understand enough to recognize the racism in our own community.
17:58:20 From h_mcmeekan : We tried to tell you that YOU are NOT SEEN AS RACIAL JUSTICE ALLIES. White people in power should NOT demand “private conversations” instead of adequate regulations, policies, oversight
17:58:40 From Maya Lee : What are the concrete ways community members can report racism?
17:58:51 From h_mcmeekan : We’ve been telling you all this for over a year. And you’ve done nothing at all. Talk.
17:58:59 From Becky Danner : What you do not understand is that because of abuse, those being mistreated will not come to you.
17:59:43 From Becky Danner : Thank you Tammie Leigh

Disrupted Justice

We tried to have public comments read into the public record at the Macomb City Council Meeting last week, and well …this happened. *sigh.

  • Pat Stout’s article which neglects to mention any of the disruption nor the public comments

…and we’ve already filed the report and complaint with the Illinois Attorney General.

Meanwhile, our petition is over 8,8k. Really, City of Macomb?

Racial Justice Coalition Town Hall 3/4/20

We greatly appreciate the members of the County Board who attended our Town Hall on Racism on March 4, 2020.

Content warning: Affidavits contain traumatic narratives with implicit bias, racism.

  1. “Pregnant Black WIU Student Arrested for Fearfully Asking for Help”
  2. “Black Mom Rendered Unconscious in McDonough County Jail”
  3. “Black Mother Submitted Complaint Against Officer Who Called Her a Black Bitch”
  4. Macomb Police Department Refusal to Take Report of Red Truck Attempting To Run Her Daughter off the Road
  5. “MPD Refusal To Call for Qualified Medical Professionals for Traumatized Black Girl”
  6. “Black Male Assault Victim of Police Excessive Force, Possible Obstruction of Justice Languishing in Jail” [Witness Summaries]
  7. Affidavit #7: Black Man Fired From Housing Following Racial Insult from Executive Director Bill Jacobs, Harassment by MPD Officer Lindsey May

Macomb Police Chief Barker Must Go

Thank you to all who attended our press conference today.

[Note: Based upon interviews and collaboration and input from multiple sources in our city, we believe the following to be accurate based upon our understanding at this time. As we are volunteers, community members, and concerned human beings, we believe the overall picture of this situation emerging from these preliminary findings is of sufficient concern to warrant a demand for action.]

Situation: A mentally disabled, traumatized Black man with intellectual challenges went missing a few weeks ago in our community. He has a legal guardian, his brother, who is also Black.

The guardian brother, worried and desperate to find him, tried to make a report about his missing brother at the police station. They refused to help him, claiming that since his brother was an adult, they couldn’t take a report. The brother kept trying to locate him on his own, without any police help. 

More days passed. The brother asked yet another police officer to take a report, and he refused as well. But one of the police officers told the brother that another officer had given his brother a one-way ticket to Chicago. The statement was witnessed.

The brother continued his search without any assistance nor even support from the Macomb Police Department.

A few days later, the police officer then changed his story and stated they hadn’t given him a ticket and sent him away. Frantic and traumatized, the brother, who is his guardian, finally received aid from a professional health provider who went with him to the police station to insist they finally report his brother as missing and endangered.

The Macomb P.D. finally, approximately two weeks later, filed the missing persons report, neglecting to mention in that report he was missing because they had given him a one-way ticket to a city where he has nobody to help him. The Chicago Police Department located him, sitting on a stoop, with frostbitten feet, in the same clothes he had left Macomb with two weeks prior.

The brother who is the guardian of this man not only wasn’t offered any assistance nor apology, he had to drive up to get his brother and bring him back to his home community at his own expense, with no assistance from the Macomb police, who had created this emergency in the first place through their own actions.

Chief Barker must go.

Press Conference at Macomb City Hall, 1/17/20

A cold protest for dark times: NO WAR WITH IRAN

Thank you to all who organized, donated, spoke, stood with us, and/or otherwise supported our Chandler Park Vigil for Peace against #WarWithIran. Thank you to the news agencies for their coverage of this event.

1/08/20 Vigil for Peace in protest against War With Iran
1/08/20 Vigil for Peace in protest against War With Iran

Transcript: President Heather McMeekan’s Event Emcee

Welcome. 

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”

~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Thank you to all who donated food, supplies, and gifts of time and resources to make this event possible.

As the decisions of the Trump Administration drags our nation perilously closer to war with Iran, we are grateful for all who have chosen to stand with us as we say no to yet another endless, expensive war which we cannot support ethically, financially, nor spiritually. We stand as one human family to demonstrate that we oppose the bloody sacrifice of American lives, immoral and unilateral use of force against another country, and needless waste of taxpayer money.

At this time, I’d like to introduce Reverend Kelly Ingersoll, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, for our convocation. 

[Reverend Ingersoll]

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

When a parent or caregiver serves in the Military, so does their family, including their children.

According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: “Children of military and veteran families experience unique challenges related to military life and culture. These include deployment-related stresses such as parental separation, family reunification, and reintegration; disruption of relationships with friends and neighbors due to frequent moves; and adaptation to new schools and new community resources.  Added to this, some children face the trauma of a parent returning home from combat with injuries or illness; others must face their parent’s death.

Source: https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/populations-at-risk/military-and-veteran-families

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty: “Wartime parental deployments can be one of the most stressful events of a child’s life.17

  • “Changes reported included changes in school performance, lashing out in anger, worrying, hiding emotions, disrespecting parents and authority figures, feeling a sense of loss, and symptoms consistent with depression.18
  • High levels of sadness were observed in children in all age groups.19
  • Depression was seen in about 1 in 4 children.20
  • Academic problems occurred in 1 in 5 children.21
  • 37% of children with a deployed parent reported that they seriously worry about what could happen to their deployed caretaker.22
  • Parents reported that 1 in 5 coped poorly or very poorly to deployment separation.23
  • Media coverage of the war posed a significant source of stress for children and makes it much more difficult for children to cope with a parent’s deployment.24
  • Length of deployment was associated with mental health problems including depression, acting out, and externalizing behaviors.25

    Source: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_938.html

I’d like to introduce our next speaker. He’s a local businessman, a father, a grandfather, a husband, and a Vietnam Veteran, having served in the U.S. Army. Please welcome Paul Trimmer!

[Paul Trimmer, U.S. Army Veteran, Vietnam Veteran]

Role of Employment Status on Child Outcomes

  • “Nearly 2/5ths (38.3 percent) of deployed services personnel are not full-time military.55 Many of the nearly 1.1 million individuals in the National Guard and Reserve components experience combat-related duty.56 Reserve and Guard troops represent a significant sub-population within the military, and face specific challenges that impact their families.
  • Research shows that living on base is linked to reduced difficulties both during and after deployment.57
  • Reservists and their families have less experience dealing with deployment and re-integration and less support than active duty soldiers and families.58
  • Reservist families are less likely to be integrated into a military social support network, are less familiar with how to access military benefits and less likely to use installation-based services.59
  • Reserve component soldiers were nearly one and a half times more likely to report mental health problems and over three times more likely to be referred for services than active duty personnel three to six months after their return.60 These higher levels of referrals were attributed to differential health benefits and supports for these individuals compared to active duty personnel.61
  • Less than ½ of National Guard and Reserve families surveyed reported a consistent level of support during the pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment phases. 17%  reported no support.62

    Source: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_938.html

Our nation does not exist to vote in leaders who condemn our children and grandchildren to fighting endless wars while the needs of our communities go unmet. We urge Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL18) to join his Illinois Colleagues in the Senate, Illinois State Senators Tammy Duckworth & Dick Durbin, in putting the safety of our military members and our community’s next generation of soldiers above partisan politics by seeking diplomacy and de-escalation to protect lives, resources, and our crucial diplomatic ties with our allies around the world. We are handing out postcards that already have a stamp on them. Fill them out, and send them to US Congressman Darin LaHood. Make certain you state on there “I am a Consituent.”

Now I’d like to bring up University Professional of Illinois’s President, William “Bill” Thompson. 

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Please welcome Candace Whitman, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Military Combat Deployments Increase Child Maltreatment Due to Toxic Stress

“Phases of deployment (pre-deployment, deployment and re-integration) are important and affect the children’s well-being. Both departures to, and returns from, combat deployment cause stress in families. Poorly supported families are at greater risk of psychological stress & long-term issues from combat deployments.”

  • “Rates of maltreatment in military families far outpaced the rates among non-military families after the U.S. started sending larger numbers of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003.39
  • Among families of enlisted U.S. Army personnel with substantiated reports of child maltreatment (physical, emotional or sexual abuse), rates of maltreatment are greater when the soldiers are on combat-related deployments. 
  • The rate of child maltreatment in families of enlisted Army soldiers was 42% higher during combat deployment than during non-deployment.40
  • For military personnel with at least one dependent, the rate of child maltreatment increases by approximately 30% for every 1% increase in the number of active duty soldiers who depart or return from combat deployment.41” Source: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_938.html

Our next speaker, Emiliano Vera, is a teacher from Bushnell, and is running for State Representative in Illinois’s 93rd Congressional District. Please welcome Emiliano Vera!

Thank you. And thank you all for coming out evening. We must get our nation’s leaders, including our own US Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL18) to oppose war with Iran and put country over ideology. We must. We must not hand our children yet another bloody, endless conflict that starves our nation of it’s promise, potential, and resources we should be using to the benefit and safety of all.

Please, speak the hard conversations with those who are still more afraid of revealing their opinions publicly rather than challenging those whose ignorance is tearing at the very fabric of our shared purpose. Our children need us all to have courage now. There is no alternative to demanding diplomacy and peace. 

Speakers

• Opening Remarks – Heather McMeekan, President, DWMC
• Convocation – Kelly Ingersol, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ
• Paul Trimmer, US Army & Vietnam Veteran
• William “Bill” Thompson, UPI Local 4100 (WIU Faculty/Staff Union)
• Candace Whitman, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
• Emiliano Vera, Teacher, Candidate for State Representative (D-IL93)

Actions

• White Board Campaign with hashtag – get people to post on their own social media
• Sign the online petition to Rep LaHood
• Postcards to Rep LaHood, Senators Duckworth & Durbin

#NoWarWithIran #Deescalate #CountryOverParty

The Conversation on Cannabis is Changing…

Some of our members attended the city council meeting to begin reading into the public record some facts about the racist legacy of cannabis prohibition, and how the current legislation at the state and federal level still allows for risk of disparate treatment of Black/Hispanic/Latino/Native American cannabis users due to the subjectivity and lax oversight on how the laws are enforced. In particular, the paraphernalia laws and ordinances must go.

Paraphernalia laws are blatantly racist and classist. Wealthier, white users can afford edibles and nasal sprays. The poor purchase flower and use chillums, one-hitters, bowls, etc. as they can’t afford to purchase the edibles.

And Black users are over-policed using this law, causing them to enter the justice system for the crime of using this safe plant. Furthermore such laws stigmatize and criminalize addiction, despite the fact that these devices are a legal delivery device that is sold in our city.

“In a related issue, two city residents asked the council to consider striking the drug paraphernalia portion of an amended cannabis possession ordinance adopted two weeks ago. “Some of those devices are used legally by medical marijuana users,” said Heather McMeekan.

McMeekan said the paraphernalia ban is a legacy of previous rigid enforcement and could especially harm students and minorities. She said the portion of the ordinance allowing police to make stops based on detecting the odor of cannabis threatens those who have purchased it legally.

“The sealed medical marijuana in my vehicle leaves a distinctive odor,” McMeekan said.

Emiliano Vera told the city council that he is also opposed to the retention of drug paraphernalia language. “The poorest people in our community would be harmed by these unnecessarily punitive regulations,” he said.”

Source: https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/news/20200107/council-approves-cannabis-lounges

Announcing New Member Benefits

Our membership is growing!!! Thanks to your support, we are at 120 members just 11 months after becoming an organization. To celebrate, we’re announcing our new member benefits we’ll be offering to all our members!

Included with dues, members can join as many groups as they wish. We will have the following services/circles:

  • Allyship Book Club (via our Racial Justice Coalition)
  • Artists & Crafters Guild (Networking, support, and promotion)
  • Drum Circle (Meets monthly and on special occasions)
  • Fibre Arts Circle (ALL things fibre/sewing/crocheting/knitting)
  • Gardening Co-Op (Environmental Justice Coalition)
  • Home Improvement Co-Op (Environmental Justice Coalition)
  • Liberal Lunchers Weekly Brown Bag Discussion
  • Monthly Trauma Circle (Mental Health Task Force)
  • Pet-Sitting Co-Op
  • Quarterly Trauma Healing and Resilience Workshops (Mental Health Task Force)
  • Women’s Film Club