‘It was inhumane,’ Peoria NAACP President calls for everyone to take a stand to end racial injustice, police brutality

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The emotional reactions to George Floyd’s death are resonating here in central Illinois as well as across the country.

The Peoria Chapter of the NAACP is calling for people to take a stand against racial injustice and police brutality. Pastor Marvin Hightower says to ignite change, you must first admit there’s a problem, then get educated.

“Talk to someone of another race,” Hightower said.

He encouraged people to “get outside their bubble,” and also hold elected officials accountable.

“America never wants to confront its problems unless there’s a riot. People are angry, people are upset, people are protesting because they are demanding change. Something has to change,” Hightower said.

Hightower says situations like these have been going on for years, and there’s a reason many people don’t trust the police.

He says the NAACP works to create public policies. He added that he believes it doesn’t just react to specific moments, but he is hoping people will use this moment to drove the vote in November.

“We vote. We try to work with our legislators. People are just tired, and sick and tired of being pushed down, pressed down, overlooked, undervalued, and marginalized. I would say if you’re gonna protest, it’s your constitutional right,” Hightower said.

The Peoria Police Department declined to speak on-camera Friday, but Police Chief Loren Marion issued the public statement on Thursday which can be found below.

I want to start off by saying my condolences go out to the Floyd family. On Tuesday evening I saw the video of the incident with officers from the Minneapolis Police Department and Mr. George Floyd. Upon seeing the video, it angered me. The way the officers treated Mr. Floyd was disturbing and unacceptable. I feel the immediate termination of these officers was warranted and just. I also feel that it is proper for the FBI to step in and investigate the incident.

It is the actions of those officers that give police officers a bad name. I refuse to sit back and let an incident like this cast a negative light on the Peoria Police Department. The men and women of the Peoria Police Department work too hard to have the actions of a few officers tear down what we have built when it comes to community relations. I don’t like to come to conclusions without knowing all the facts, but I can’t think of any reason that these officers responded the way the video depicts.

I also felt like I had to address the situation immediately within the organization. I wanted to make sure that if officers had seen the video, that they knew that the actions of the officers involved and the technique they used was not acceptable by the Peoria Police Department.

LOREN MARION, PEORIA POLICE CHIEF

Additionally, Lt. John Briggs, who oversees Use of Force training, discussed the situation with officers, saying, “Under no circumstance should we ever do what the officer in this video did.”

The email Briggs sent internally to the department can be read below:

The video within the article is only a small clip of what transpired in Minneapolis. If you search for the video online I am sure everyone can find the video in its entirety. I wanted to send this out so everyone is aware of what happened during this incident in Minneapolis. Furthermore I wanted to touch on some training points. Under no circumstance should we ever do what the officer in this video did. The suspect was hand cuffed and on the ground. The officer is kneeling on the suspects neck to keep him pinned to the ground.

I don’t want to Monday morning quarter back this thing too much without all the details, but I don’t want any officer to think this technique is okay. Whenever we have someone in custody it is our duty to care for that person. If someone says they cannot breathe, make every attempt to get that subject into a position so they can breathe. Always get medical attention for people in our custody if they need it or ask for it. Be aware of positional asphyxiation. Even keeping someone handcuffed on their stomach for an extended period of time is not okay. We need to get subjects in our custody sat up or on their side so they do not have trouble breathing due to their positioning. If a subject is hand cuffed and out of control we need to get them secured inside a vehicle, or in this scenario they could have even sat him up and pinned him against the car using his arms. Under no circumstance should we be pinning someone to the ground by their neck that is in hand cuffs.

We are trained in ground/high risk hand cuffing, and we are trained to use the shoulder pin in order to effect an arrest in those circumstances. Do not put your knee or any pressure on the suspects neck to affect this arrest, unless you have reason to use deadly force. Furthermore, it is every officer on scene responsibility to care for subjects in our custody. If you observe an officer doing something they shouldn’t or not doing something they should, step up and step in. Take control of the situation and make sure everyone is safe, including people in our custody. Let me know if anyone has questions about this incident or my remarks. Be safe.

LT. JOHN BRIGGS

Hightower says he is glad to see the officer who had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck was arrested, but he believes all four officers should have been arrested immediately.

“Just as you and I, if we had committed an act, crime, or murder, we would be arrested immediately and then have to prove our innocence,” Hightower said. “It needs to be thoroughly investigated but there needs to be a punishment to the action that happened to Mr. Floyd. That’s one way of starting the conversation of making it right and earning the trust.”

But Hightower says the NAACP has existed for more than 100 years because of instances like Floyd’s death.

“The NAACP was founded in 1909 because of murders, because of these atrocities that were being committed against black and brown people. These have been years and years and years, trust will not be earned because of this conviction, however, it will be a start to rebuilding a relationship,” Hightower said.

Hightower said he was on a call with the NAACP President from Minneapolis who stated ‘It’s not just about a riot, or about the protests, it’s an uprising from Minnesota,” he said. “Because they have been going through this for years. Dr. King also said a riot is the voice of the unheard. Colin Kaepernick, he knelt peacefully, and he still lost his career.”

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, one of four officers fired after George Floyd’s death, was arrested and charged with murder Friday.

Chauvin, the former officer seen in a bystander video Monday kneeling on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. He had worked with the Minneapolis police for 19 years.

“We entrust our police officers to use certain amounts of force to do their job to protect us,” Freeman said. “They commit a criminal act if they use this force unreasonably.”

Conviction on a third-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

Freeman called the speed in which the arrest was made was “extraordinary.”

“We have never charged a case in that kind of time frame, and we can only charge a case when we have sufficient admissible evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. As of right now, we have that,” Freeman said. “We have charged this case as quickly, as sufficient admissible evidence to charge it has been investigated and presented to us. “

Freeman said subsequent charges are possible, but he declined to elaborate on possible charges against the other three fired police officers.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in a tweet, called the arrest the “first step towards justice.” 

“Police officer Derek Chauvin has been arrested and is in custody for the murder of George Floyd. The first step towards justice,” Klobuchar tweeted.

The arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated as demonstrators set fires inside and outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct building late Thursday night.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who pleaded for order Friday morning, earlier acknowledged the “abject failure” of the response to this week’s protests.

“Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fire is still smoldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard,” Walz said. “Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world — and the world is watching.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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