Disrupted Racial Justice

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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. 

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. 

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


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