EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD)– An East Peoria trampoline park is investigating claims of racial slurs being used during its Saturday evening “teen night.”
On Sunday, a group of protesters gathered with signs outside the trampoline park wanting answers and action to be taken.
Saturday night, a group of teens say they were celebrating one of their birthdays when they say they were harassed by another group of kids. They say one girl was hit in the face with a dodge ball, and when she tried to address it, the other teen called her the ‘n-word’.
One of the four teens’ mother says they tried to address the issue with staff Saturday night, but says they were told since the kids who used the racial slurs were partially black themselves, it wasn’t an issue.
According to the teenagers, that staff member did attempt to apologize to them, but tensions rose when ELEVATE called the police.
One mother, Gyresha Linwood, says she arrived to find the four girls outside with no shoes on and says police officers on scene treated her like a two-year-old. Linwood told WMBD the police would not let her daughter go back in to retrieve her shoes and escorted her in to do so.
“It was disgusting the way we were treated by police, very disgusting,” Linwood said.
Linwood said the teens were treated differently because of the color of their skin and she wants staff and the officers involved held accountable. She said the kids will be forever changed by Saturday night’s incident.
“It was a personal situation for her and she said it just really opened her eyes and understand how bad the situation really is for adults to not protect them, for the law to not protect them. They felt isolated and in limbo until I was able to make it here,” Linwood said.
One of the owners addressed the crowd that gathered Sunday afternoon, apologizing for the incident. They then took the girls inside to get written statements. According to Linwood, the trampoline park will investigate the claims and make a decision Tuesday.
Linwood is hoping the decision is one of equity and fairness.
“We won’t stop. We won’t stop until we feel something has been done to make these kids understand just because they are Black, they will not be singled out every time they go somewhere.”
Pastor and NAACP President, Marvin Hightower was also on scene Sunday afternoon and says he is angry that this incident happened and says the girls were racially profiled.
“They were treated differently because of the color of their skin. The way they were addressed was different because of the color of their skin,” Hightower said.
As part of ‘teen nights,’ ELEVATE does not allow drinking and other illegal activity for teens. Hightower says the four girls were abiding by the law and are athletes at school.
“They weren’t doing any of that, yet they were punished as if they were. It’s unacceptable.”
The indoor trampoline company posted to it’s Facebook page Sunday saying it’s diligently investigating the claim.
The ownership of Elevate Trampoline Park would like to invite anyone that had any direct involvement with the situation that arose last night between young guests & our staff, to please direct message us your contact information. We are diligently investigating a claim of a racial slur being used between young guests during Teen Night and the way our staff handled the situation.
In an effort to set up a constructive conversation with all the involved parties, we are trying to reach you and personally talk with you. We are committed to making sure we hear everyone’s voice and safely remedy the situation for everyone involved. Racism in any form is very painful and disgusting. It will not be tolerated by Elevate Trampoline Park. We want to be a safe haven for everyone in our community regardless of color or race.
Elevate Trampoline Park (East Peoria) @elevateeastpeoria
A protest from the teen’s family took place Sunday afternoon outside the business.
We reached out to East Peoria’s Chief of Police for comment.
“I am aware of the incident at Elevate and have been following up on the development but was not aware of that statement. Will be reviewing information we have tomorrow. Want to give accurate statement but until I know what was said will reserve commenting. Better to have the knowledge of what was said then comment without knowing.”Chief of East Peoria Police, Steve Roegge
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