OpEd – DWMC: City, WIU need to publicly respond to threats and harassment of BLM protestors

This OpEd ran in the McDonough County Voice on July 28, 2020, after almost month of silence from Mayor Inman and the white city council members following a story about death threats made to #BlackLivesMatter protesters in Macomb and Bushnell.

Dear Mayor Inman & Macomb City Council,

Last fall, a hate group marched in WIU’s homecoming parade. We brought it to your attention, yet the city and WIU’s administration said nothing to condemn it.

At that parade, our Racial Justice Coalition leadership marched with a “Black Lives Matter” banner, and had racist and misogynistic comments yelled at them throughout the route. That WIU Homecoming was boycotted by many of our Black WIU Alumni to send a message to the city to address the racism. You, and WIU’s Administration were silent about that hate group and refused to publicly acknowledge the boycott, depriving this community of the knowledge that many Black alumni and citizens wanted ACTION from you and WIU.

Back in February of this year, the Democratic Women of McDonough County warned about the many complaints received about vehicles threatening Black folks in the community. We urged action to protect people. There was no identifiable public response.

On July 8, a McDonough County Voice article reported online threats by county residents threatening to murder the Black Lives Matter protesters in Chandler Park.

These threats of violence have so far been met with silence by our city leadership and WIU’s Administration.

The Black Lives Matter park protests in Macomb are organized by a grassroots movement begun by women who have diligently held protests throughout this summer. They have been subjected to escalating threats and harassment.

Members of our Racial Justice Coalition attended the protest on Friday, July 24th, 2020. We were greatly alarmed at the sharp rise in both the number of hateful responses, and the escalation in degree of hateful expressions of racism and misogyny.

A truck blew the red light intentionally, tires squealing, the white male driver almost hitting two vehicles. Another white male driver repeatedly drove by, swerving in his lane as he leaned out the driver’s window and yelled “F*** you!!!,” “White power!!!,” “B****!!!,” and other hateful comments while flipping people off, and even blocking the roadway.

There were many vehicles yelling racist comments. A white man showed up with a racist “White Lives Matter Blue Lives Matter” sign as a counter-protester, not wearing a mask, and refusing to adhere to distancing for safety. We think city leaders should be immensely concerned about the safety of those community members peacefully using their constitutional rights to express themselves and peaceably assemble.

As the BLM movement has expanded and held peaceful protests across the county in smaller towns like Bushnell, the harassment and explicit threats of violence have only grown. If the leadership of the self-proclaimed “welcoming and diverse” college town can’t condemn threats against protesters, how can we expect Black people, including Black WIU students, to feel and be safe in any community in this county?

We condemn all threats and those making them. We condemn those putting lives at risk. We urge you, as city leaders, to condemn the threats, and make a strong, visible, PUBLIC stance against escalating violence and harassment.

When a community’s leadership appears tolerant of such racism and misogynistic behavior, it escalates. What will it take for you to speak up? Who will have to be hurt before you act in defense of peaceful protesters and allies?

We urge you to act now. Your silence is taken as consent. Speak up before tragedy occurs.

Heather McMeekan, President
Becky Danner, 2nd Vice President
Submitted on behalf of the Democratic Women of McDonough County