RJC: 3/4/20 Town Hall on Race

Town Hall: 3/04/2020 5-7 pm, Macomb City Hall

RJC Co-Chair Regina’s Matthews Comments: “Welcome, and thank you for attending this Town Hall. We wish to thank all who gave us affidavits, support, witness, and resources of time and expertise that we might continue our work tonight. 

We are not experts. We are volunteer community members who are deeply concerned about the safety, health, and quality of lives of our under-represented community members, friends, family, and students. For far too long, People of Color in our community have gone without visible, consistent, vocal white allies here to help them receive just and fair responses to their concerns. White allies are needed to ensure we demand all people in our community receive equal access, support, protection and opportunity from our governemental officials, community leaders, and when accessing structures of government and public service.

Racial justice work is uncomfortable for many white people. We’d like to remind fellow white people that our discomfort with this topic in no way compares to the hardship and marginalization faced by far too many of our community members without our white privilege. 

In this space, let us center the needs, safety, dignity, value, and quality of life of our Black, Hispanic, Latino, and Native American community members, international students, and those of immigrant heritage. These are the community members subjected to the impact of implicit bias, acts of bigotry and marginalization, and race-based violence. 

We are here tonight in solidarity with them in the hopes that we might help our predominently-white community members hear their voices, spoken through ours, because they have not been heard and received appropriate redress of concerns, or these problems would not persist in all levels of our community.

A Reminder: Structural Racism Requires Actions

Structural racism allows bias to remain as possible variables in systems of power and authority. It is the ongoing lack of attention and effort to address these broken structures, which leaves the risk for bias expressed by public servants, and elected or appointed officials, in public policy and procedure.

It is these broken structures about which we hope to come together as a community to address over time, but we cannot do this alone. We have reached out to the Illinois Attorney General with these complaints where appropriate, the ACLU of Illinois, Peoria chapter, who we welcome here this evening as our special guests, the Department of Human Rights, and the Department of Justice.

We hope you’ll join us in our effort to make this community a safe, welcoming, and supportive place for all our residents by taking a strong public anti-racist stance and fixing the structures that prevent us from achieving equality. 

We also have deep concerns following anecdotes and affidavits and witness summaries calling into question some the procedures, communication, and manner in which the McDonough County State’s Attorney, Matt Kwacala has handled several cases. That is why we will not go to him for complaints. We believe those cases should be investigated for possible civil rights violations. 

To Those Telling Us To “Speak Positively in Public”

To those telling us to “speak positively in public” about Macomb, we wish to point out that toxic positivity is how this community has gotten to this point. It’s time to try honest, open conversation.

We reject those telling us to “work with” people who have lied to and about us, our members, our leaders, and our organization’s racial justice work.

We challenge those individuals to to solicit some feedback from culturally competent white allies. Our community urgently requires white people proclaiming positivity to consider who you are silencing. It’s not us.

Black children are separated from their mothers, Black people are being harmed, and Black families are being disenfranchised. These are not positive things, but they must be talked about to change them.

White people need to gain some self-awareness of the harm making such statements from a place of white/class privilege does. Calls for coming together and public positivity is not the response to credible accounts of race-based harassment and targeting by those employed or elected by the taxpayers. It is yet another manifestation of white privilege.

We ask them to consider what Black community members might feel when privileged, comfortable white people call for action-less, safe conversations which fail to hold public servants accountable for wrongdoing.

We will not “come together” with men who have lied to our faces, expressed openly racist values, used racist micro-aggressions & tropes when “explaining” their “values,” and tried to intimidate and harass journalists into not reporting on concerns raised about discrimination. 

They have repeatedly misrepresented their actions to the public. They appear to prefer using disruption tactics to thwart true accountability and restorative justice by giving verbal assurances to those raising concerns. Verbal assurances are enough for many white people who prefer a comfortable salve which soothes white feelings while actually doing nothing to help Black people suffering these crimes and indignities.

City & community leaders serious about racial justice must address the absent, underperforming, or outright broken structures of local government and public service. This is the only path to begin to bring true reconcilation, restorative justice, and healing to this community. 

Those telling us that discussions are sufficient to solve complex structural racism do not understand the intractable pervasive problem. For far too many in our community (and some who have left) complaints of maltreatment are met with retaliation – and further trauma.

At our last Town Hall, we read an interview summary of likely police misconduct during an incident of the Black man being allegedly assaulted in his girlfriend’s private residence by the police. It appears to have been a case of mistaken identity, shortly after which the Macomb Police Department’s website (and complaint form) became non-functioning. Both the Chief and Sheriff were on that call, yet neither reported their errors nor made any attempt at helping this traumatized man and his family receive proper acknowledgement, support, and public witness to the wrongs done to them by our police. 

The city leaders have taken no action other than to publicly announce people should turn in complaints to the police or speak to the Mayor, who already said he wouldn’t work with us, or the city alderman who have taken no action to hold the chief accountable for his racist and homophobic statements.

Why would a marginalized person feel safe going to these people?

The Macomb Police Chief Isn’t Being Honest About The History Of The Complaint Form – but they DID update it to use more of the suggestions we asked for at our last town hall

We wish to point out that once the complaint form was fixed after many requests, the complaint form required a notarized signature. We have an email from the Mayor confirming that the form they put up required a notarized signature. We have posted a screenshot of it on our Facebook wall. We will share it with any members of the media who wish to verify that Mayor Inman told our organization that a Notarized signature WAS REQUIRED BY LAW.

We asked the Macomb Police to amend that form at our last town hall, so as to adopt “best practices” standards. We weren’t informed when they updated the form, but in several meetings since, Police Chief Curt Barker has misled the community in those meetings in his official capacity, claiming that our assertion that the form required a notarized signature was “a rumor” – which he knows is not a rumor, but was the truth based upon the Mayor’s email. The fact they have since changed it doesn’t mean it was rumor, ever.

A Police Chief who will deliberately mislead the public, community leaders, and the press regarding police handling of complaints is displaying inappropriate, unprofessional behavior at best.

At this time, we renew our call for Chief Barker to step down or be removed, and for his department to be properly investigated. 

*****Content Warning: The following affidavits/witness summaries contain language and detail crimes and failures to protect which are sensitive and may be traumatizing for viewers watching our live feed and here with us tonight.*****

[Reading of the Affidavits]

  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

Referenced affidavit from our first Town Hall: Affidavit: Macomb Black Man Recounts Frightening Case of Mistaken Identity by Police

President Heather McMeekan’s Remarks

Since the first round of affidavits read at our last Town Hall, our organization has received no requests nor communications at all from Mayor Inman, Chief Barker, nor Sheriff Pettigout.  

Given the potential legal and economic implications for the consequences of not investigating, much less addressing these concerns, we find the city’s apparent lack of interest and attention to these matters appalling – at best. 

We speak now to the white community members of Macomb who may be watching this event online. 

How many affidavits will it take? How many accounts detailing the pain, suffering, and trauma experienced by members of the Black community must be laid bare for the voyeristic consumption & rejection by white community members before those in who consider themselves “good people” finally respond with demands for investigation and appropriate change? 10 families harmed? 20? 50? 

Why is ONE clear injustice not enough for white people to demand action for change instead of conversation?

We challenge all our community members to step up in their personal racial justice awareness to move beyond book discussions and conversations by tasking all our community leaders to address structural and systemic bias in:

  • Policing at all levels
  • Busing: (Adherence to all IEP’s, and Title IX; demand for second adult to ride; investigate comments made by Anthony Read to parents)
  • Schools: (our asks from the petition)
  • Places of Employment: (Getting the EOFHC to hear discrimination cases in the city)
  • Justice System: (Establishing a watchdog group to witness hearings; establishing a jail outreach group; evaluation system for our local State’s Attorney and public defenders, allow 2 – 1 hour visits for families of incarcerated persons (who aren’t on restrictions) instead of the 1 – 30 minute time slot they get; setting up ride-alongs for white community members.)
  • Healthcare System: (Getting Black community members appointed on the MDH, North Central, McDonough County Health Department Boards, requiring cultural competency training of all hospital employees)

We have credible allegations and evidence of wrongdoing, including possible Obstruction of Justice, against the Police Chief and Sheriff Pettigout, with the full complicity of Mayor Mike Inman. 

We do not believe these men deserve to stay in leadership. We have many more affidavits in the pipeline, and will keep revealing them to document both the experiences and subsequent refusal to respond by our city leaders.

At this time, the Democratic Women of McDonough County calls on Mayor Mike Inman, Chief Curt Barker, and Sheriff Nick Pettigout to step down. We deserve leaders in love with justice, not optics and verbal assurances.

We urge all caring citizens concerned with a truly healthy community to demand an investigation into the Sheriff’s harassment of journalists and elected officials. A sheriff who will use his uniform, badge, and gun to try to intimidate journalists and political opponents isn’t just appalling, it erodes faith in governement and feelings of community safety. 

There exists a recording of the Police Chief Curt Barker admitting he knows the Sheriff intimidates people, yet the Chief has failed to hold him accountable. This is a violation of the sworn duty to protect. 

We urge journalists to speak with McDonough County Voice editor Michelle Langhout on the behavior towards her and another journalist by the Sheriff. We also think journalists should investigate the statements Mayor Inman has made to the Voice Editor in regards to several stories the paper posted calling into question the status of the Equal Opportunity and Fair Housing Commission.

These men do not have to like the issues we raise, but trying to silence our organization by intimidating and harassing journalists is absolutely unacceptable, is a possible violation of the First Amendment, and must be investigated.

Such behavior could even open up both the city and the county to expensive legal action, which we would ALL pay for.

An investigation into possible “Color of Law” violations for their actions and their repeated failures to protect Black people in our community from harm and violations of their constitutional, civil, and human rights should be conducted by outside agencies. These allegations are deeply serious, and this community should demand answers. 

  • Prove us wrong with independent investigations, or hold them accountable

Repeated failures on the part of our City and County Government to properly investigate and address the concerns raised is appalling, and sends a chilling message to our People of Color here, as do the false assurances of white people who have no Black friends to inform them of their ignorance.


  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”
  7. Black Man Fired From Housing Following Racial Insult from Executive Director Bill Jacobs, Harassment by MPD Officer Lindsey May

Affidavit #1 – “Pregnant Black WIU Student Arrested for Fearfully Asking for Help” – Read by

This is an account of an incident involving the Macomb Police arresting a Black Pregnant woman.

There was an altercation between 2 drivers. I was sitting in the passenger seat of one vehicle.

The officer came to my window, cussing at me telling me to “roll down the f$&?ing window.” When I told him that I couldn’t, because the car had already been turned off, he told me to “open the f$&@ing door.” I complied, and he forcefully pulled me out of the car and slammed me on it multiple times KNOWING that I was pregnant (because I informed him repeatedly.)

I then stepped away from the car with my hands up to try to show I was no threat. The officer then put his hands on his tazer and ordered me to get on the ground.

I then called 911 because I believed at this point that my unborn’s life was in danger and I didn’t feel safe. Another officer came and ripped my phone away from my hand and slammed it hard on the windshield of the car. 

The officer who was manhandling me then put me in the back of his car. I asked what I was being arrested for, and received NO ANSWER. When I asked to talk to another officer, I was told that his car had Audio and Video and that if i had anything to say I could say it to him.

[RJC Interviewer Note: The car audio and video somehow was apparently destroyed so couldn’t be used to help the case in court.]

This was AFTER already being told by that same officer that I didn’t have a right to remain silent. I was never read my rights.

When I got to the jail, the man who was booking me didn’t even know what I was being arrested for. The officer knew he was in the wrong, so what he arrested me for was falsifying a report because I called 911 on him, claiming I could have just talked to another officer on the scene. 

I DID ask to speak to another officer, and WAS IGNORED.

I was the only person arrested from that incident. I ended up charged with a misdemeanor and that remains on my record. I was assigned a public defender, but I don’t believe he cared about my case. 

Witness Summary for Affidavit #2- “Black Mom Rendered Unconscious in McDonough County Jail, Denied Medical Assessment & Care” 

This is an account of an incident involving the Macomb Police, the Sheriff’s Department, and the McDonough County Jail.

  • Interviewee reported being pulled over by the police 
  • She stated she saw the police car & turned off the main road, expecting the police car to be on their way to a call. Once that didn’t happen, she looked for a good place to pull over. 
  • Once stopped, interviewee stated the officers approached the car, possibly one on each side of the car & the officer on the driver’s side, shining his light in her face. 
  • She reports that she raised her hand to block the light. 
  • She was asking why she was pulled over, when the officer began to remove her from the vehicle. She ended up on the ground very quickly.  
    • She is a petite woman at less than 130 lbs.
  • Interviewee reports waking up in a holding cell alone after booking. Relates she woke up in a shirt and panties. She reported that she was so cold her legs were green. She called out for help; she believed herself to be so cold she was in danger. [RJC Note: May have been shock from being injured, head injury, and multiple taser contacts]
  • It appears this was used to interpret that she was a danger to herself, and was dressed in the suit/clothing/ restrictive wear appropriate for as suicide risk. She wasn’t given anything to warm herself, and reports remaining very cold during this time. 
    • She was sent to processing, and awakened to find a 4-6 cm raised obvious soft tissue injury on the left side of her forehead. 
    • There are 4-5 Taser marks on her back, and another possible one on her arm. 
    • She displays several bruises, including one large deep bruise on her forearm, which may have been the result of an initial taser attempt because of the single mark in center that matches the other taser marks.
    • She reports NO apparent medical attention being offered nor given.
    • Her economic situation means she has been unable to afford to be seen herself.
  • Interviewee appears to be receiving pressure to accept a plea deal which would deprive the court of reviewing the evidence of what happened at the jail
  • Interviewee relates ongoing headaches since

Affidavit #3 – “Black Mother Submitted Complaint Against Officer Who Called Her a Black Bitch”

I went into the police department Macomb, Illinois to file a complaint on an officer who called me a “black bitch.”

After I filed the complaint I was contacted by Sargent Butcher in two hours later asking me if I could come in for a in person interview to discuss the complaint that I had just the minute I agreed they came and picked me up at my home.

I sat down with Sargeant Butcher and another detective (who I can recognize if I see him) and before they clicked on the microphone the detective informed me there he “would hate for this to end up back for me and shall services to be notified or the housing authorities to be notified or DCFS to be notified or the department of human services to be notified.”

After he stated that to me I told him that my story will steal the same they commenced with the interview, clicked on the microphone and I say aware for where what I wrote down on my complaint.

After he clicked on the microphone, I repeated my statement that I have written down nearly word-for-word. The interview lasted about 30-40 minutes and then they dropped me back at home on Wheeler street.

I walked in my home, grabbed my child. I walked out to the bus stop and I caught the bus to Walmart so I could pick up dinner for my kids.

I got a message from my boyfriend at that time telling me that the Sheriff’s Department had just left my home with my picture, and I had now a $50000 warrant for my arrest.

It seems the detective and Sergeant Butcher ran my name to find out if I had any open cases or any pending cases. They found that I had a domestic dispute that was open, but not brought to the police department because there were no charges found to give me at the time. So they appear to have gotten the State’s Attorney to pick it up, took it to a judge (who signed a warrant), then had the Illinois State Police come and look for me on that warrant – all within an hour of me leaving the station after filing the complaint.

All this as a result of me filing my complaint against a fellow Macomb Police Department officer. This was nearly instant retaliation.

Because of this, I faced 40 days in jail 40 nights in jail. I also was placed on AGPS monitor. I was not able to care for my children, and I also was sentenced to 2 and a 1/2 years probation with over $3000 in court fees and fines that I’m still currently paying to this day.

Witness Summary for Affidavit #4: “Macomb Police Department Refusal to Take Report of Red Truck Attempting To Run Her Daughter off the Road” – Read by

First vehicle incident:

  • In 2017, interviewee reports her daughter reported that a red truck attempted to drive the mother’s daughter off of the road.
  • The daughter reported it to the police with a description of the vehicle, and the police refused to take a report at first. The Mother tried to implore the police to investigate
  • Interviewee stated the family gave up trying to get the police’s assistance and the police did nothing about it.

Second vehicle incident: 

  • Interviewee states her daughter and daughter’s fiance reported this incident to her shortly after it happened:
    • Interviewee states her daughter and her fiancee said they were walking to catch the GoWest stop by Walmart.
    • They told her they noticed a pickup truck, and even made eye contact with the driver. 
    • The report the driver then intentionally sped up and tried to run into them.
    • The fiance injured his hand trying to create distance between the truck and the mother’s daughter. The mother said the fiance had to push her daughter out of the way to prevent her from being hit by the vehicle.
    • Interviewee stated the incident wasn’t reported because they no longer have trust in the police department to do anything about these incidents after being repeatedly turned down by MPD for requests for assistance. 

Witness Summary: Medical Response Issues/Policing/Refusal to provide Medical Care Upon Request

  • One evening, the daughter was struggling with affect dysregulation issues from PTSD following yet another incident at school following the child allegedly being told by white students to “kill yourself.”
    • The Mother called for an ambulance and specifically asked for medical personnel instead of the police to respond.
    • The Mother went to the bathroom after making the call, and when she returned to her livingroom, was shocked to discover a blonde woman in plainclothes in her home, uninvited.
      • The woman refused to identify herself by name, only stating she was a ride-along. The Officers refused to identify her, only stating she was a ride-along.
      • The Mother asked the unknown ride-along to exit her residence
    • Only the police arrived, no medical personnel
    • MPD repeatedly refused to call for EMS personnel to do a medical evaluation, insisting that only the police officers would deal with her family.
      • Mother reports this caused escalation of the girl’s terror and trauma
      • Mother agreed to allow the police to transport rather than delay and further traumatize her daughter, but related she felt she had no choice

McDonough District Hospital’s Emergency Room

  • The mother left her home about 10 minutes after the police so she could gather some necessities before heading to the hospital.
    • When the mother arrived at the hospital, the worker at the front desk repeatedly claimed her child wasn’t at the hospital.
    • The Mother reported that the front desk worker was very unfriendly, short, and refused to answer any questions. 
  • The Mother and the family gathered in the waiting room, repeatedly begging the hospital staff to let them know where their disabled minor child was.
  • Mother reportedly asked for a hospital administrator. Once she spoke to the person, the front desk worker admitted the child had been there all along, but that the police said they weren’t permitted to see the child. 
  • For another hour or so, the mother stayed, distraught, in the waiting room. She was distressed, confused and crying. She reports confusion, hurt, and feelings of horror and shame that the hospital would not allow her to see her own child.
  • Mother reports the police officers handed her a form and told her she had to sign it. It was a form to relinquish her parental rights and give her daughter over as a ward of the court. 
    • When she refused to sign it, the officer demanded she sign the form or that he would sign it for her.
    • When the mother demanded more answers, the nurses said they were told by an officer that she said she did not want to see her child.
  • MDH staff told the scared and confused child that their mother did not wish to see them, which was not at all accurate, and which traumatized both child and family
  • Mother also reports the child had repeatedly asked for period products for over four hours, and the hospital staff kept “forgetting,” leaving her without them, feeling ashamed and humilited in the ER
    • After they allowed the mother to be with her child, the mother asked the hospital for pads and a comb. 
    • They gave the child pads, but the white staffer claimed that the combs would not fit through the child’s hair, so refused this Black child a comb based upon their ignorance.
    • As a result, the mother had to comb her child’s hair with a fork, as hair combing is an affect regulation/mindfulness exercise which brings her daughter comfort
  • The mother relayed that every time the police have to be called in these incidents, they refuse to call an ambulance even when the mother has specifically requested that her child be taken in an ambulance.
    • The mother said that she and her child are so traumatized that they hesitate to call or go to the hospital for anything.

Witness Summary #6: Possible victim of Hate Crime, Excessive Force, Obstruction of Justice at Walmart – MPD

  • It was an early morning when the interviewee was at Walmart. She stated she heard a commotion, and recognized one of the voices as her neighbor.
  • She reports her male neighbor is older and disabled, but describes him as kind and helpful. She approached him, and said he seemed calm. 
    • Other bystanders warned her not to go near him, allegedly because he had a knife. The interviewee saw no weapon.
    • She reports she engaged in a normal conversation with the man as a cashier finished serving him.
    • Suddenly police were surrounding them, with their guns drawn.
  • She believes she witnessed the police escalate what had been a calm situation
    • She describes the memory in as traumatic, shocking, and frightening as it put  her and the others lives needlessly at risk
  • She believes that the police used excessive force to restrain the elderly disabled man.
    • She protested that the police were not doing their job and escalating an issue that was already de-escalated.
  • She states the police knew the man as they have had incidents with him in the past. So they arrived on the scene fully aware of his disabilities.
  • The mother said several witnesses, some of whom are employees of Walmart, approached her and said they saw the elderly man enter the bathroom and leave with a swollen/bloody eye.
  • The employees also relayed that Walmart and the police advised them not to give any statements about the incident, threatening their jobs.

RJC Notes: Members of the man’s family, church, and Racial Justice Coaltion members have twice attempted to watch the proceedings against this man in court, only to have the court move the man’s hearing up several hours, denying them an opportunity to learn how his case is proceeding. 

We have discussed the event with several other witnesses who have relayed that they believe this man was the possible victim of a hate crime from a white man (with an anecdotal history of provocation of marginalized persons) who may have provoked him into an altercation in the bathroom. It appears that white man did not want to file charges but the police and State’s Attorney appear to have escalated the charges regardless of the white man’s wishes.

We have gathered anecdotal accounts that some witnesses may have had their jobs threatened by both MPD and possibly their employer should they give witness statements which would clarify the facts surrounding the arrest, which appears to have been excessive force, and possibly implicate MPD in a possible Obstruction of Justice to keep the facts from being heard in the man’s defense. Furthermore, his being held away from his family for so long, with repeated continuences, appears to follow an emerging, troubling pattern of Black people being held longer to possibly pressure them into accepting bad plea agreements to move their cases forward into resolution, even if detrimental and unwarranted based upon the alleged “crime.”

Affidavit #7: Black Man Fired From Housing Following Racial Insult from Executive Director Bill Jacobs, Harassment by MPD Officer Lindsey May

“In 2017, I was employed at McDonough County Housing Authority for maintenance and grounds. I arrived at work, and Bill Jacobs spoke emphatically at me “GET YOUR BLACK ASS IN HERE!!!”  My immediate supervisor sent me back to work while he was going to speak with Mr. Jacobs. 3 hours later, Bill Jacobs called me into the office. There were 2 Macomb Police Officers there. He fired me, claiming I had taken an unscheduled break.   He also tried to kick me off the property entirely, but was informed by the staff he couldn’t do that as that was my residence.

The person working under Bill Jacobs at that time told me Officer Lindsey May was trying to get me fired, trying to get me thrown out of housing, and she informed me that I was NOT safe from him, and that she believed my life was at risk from the police and that I should move for my safety.”