PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Black leaders in Peoria spoke out after a night of acts of violence around the City of Peoria from late Sunday to early Monday.
NAACP Peoria Branch President Rev. Marvin Hightower said he condemns non-peaceful protesting.
“The NAACP will always support a peaceful protest,” Hightower said. “It was utterly amazing to see such a large group of diverse individuals stand up for justice in peace. However, what it has evolved into is trying to take the focus on what’s important.”
He also said the actions of a few “should not dictate to the majority” how to address injustice.
Sincere Williams, an organizer for the We Matter March that occurred Saturday afternoon, said peaceful marching had nothing to do with the riots.
“The group who organized the march, we’re looking to do more,” he added. “We’re not looking to stop.”
“We got to do better community,” said Community Activist Terry Burnside. “Stop the looting. Stop the violence and stop infringing on one another’s rights. I understand the frustration that we’re going through. A lot of people are tired and I understand that piece, but what we have to know and understand is that none of these stores didn’t do anything to us. What are we benefiting from tearing down stores? Looting? Setting fires? Creating vandalism? You know better, you do better.”
Between 10 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., Peoria firefighters responded to more than 10 vehicle fires and several dumpster fires, according to the Peoria Fire Department. Officials said they wanted to make it clear that it does not account for the multiple residential and building fires they also responded to in that time.
The Peoria Police Department also said an officer and another person were transported to a local hospital with injuries after an incident involving a police SUV and another car.
Police believe all incidents are connected.
Carl Cannon, who runs the youth outreach program ELITE, also said he wants to see protesting stay peaceful, like the one on Saturday.
“It honored the memory of Mr. George Floyd, he said. “But last night, Peoria started down a very dangerous and self-destructive path. […] And my question to those who commit selfish criminal acts is, who are you mad at? Are you mad at Target?”
“This is a chance for us to change a systematic wrong into an American right,” he added. “Be part of the answer, not part of the problem.”
Chief of Police Loren Marion, who publicly showed support for Floyd’s family, and called the officers’ actions “disturbing” and “unacceptable,” condoned the Sunday evening and early Monday incidents in a press conference with other Peoria city and county leaders. He said the acts of unrest were most likely planned.
Hightower ended the press conference hoping to see more change.
“Everybody needs to take a good look in the mirror and see what has happened after all these years, and to finally stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough,'” Hightower said.
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