Central Illinois lawmakers respond to overnight unrest


PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Elected officials across Central Illinois responded to store break-ins, looting, fires and more Sunday night and early Monday morning.

I commend those dedicated police officers who work tirelessly each and every day to ensure our families and communities remain safe.  However, police brutality has absolutely no place in our society and our residents have the right to peacefully protest these inexcusable actions.  People must be given the opportunity to voice their concerns, and we must listen.  Unfortunately, the wanton disregard for public safety and the indefensible destruction of property that has overtaken these protests negates this needed dialogue and must stop immediately.

State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington)

Yesterday I stood with more than 1,000 members of our community to speak out against racism in all its forms. It’s just sad that what began as a peaceful protest and march ended in violence. Violence and looting does not honor George Floyd’s memory, and it certainly doesn’t advance the cause of justice. It just puts more lives at risk. I urge all members of our community to please, please remain peaceful when gathering to make your voice heard.

State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Normal)

In the early 1970’s I worked for and marched with Cesar Chavez, founder and leader of the United Farm Workers Union. Non-violent protest was necessary to get the attention of the powers to be that things had to change. The time had come for justice among the ranks of America’s farm workers. Cesar often spoke of non-violent action as something he learned from the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He felt the only way to achieve justice, was to affirm the dignity of everyone in a peaceful way, and to resist the temptation of violence and destruction.

In 1977, just a year before moving to Peoria, my wife and I were sent by Cesar to the New York City Boycott (a non-violent strategy of putting pressure on grape and lettuce growers to help achieve union contracts for farm workers). My task was to rid the volunteer support groups we had built up in the city of all the anarchists who used the farm worker movement for their own political purposes.

Recalling this experience brought me to reflect upon the events that transpired over the weekend. Protests occurred on every corner and street in America, and I will defend the right and necessity of peaceful protest to right centuries-old wrongs and to bring about change. However, I will not defend those who take advantage of the chaos for personal gain through unnecessary violence, destruction and looting. They are putting innocent lives at risk and must be held accountable.

While I recognize people are experiencing pain and frustration, destroying the property of local businesses will not bring justice to the family of George Floyd, or any of the countless families who have suffered because a loved one was murdered at the hands of the police. We are still firmly in the middle of a pandemic, and members of our local business community are working around the clock to get back to doing business and providing jobs in our community.

Let us focus on the injustices that have occurred too often and the underlying racism that runs through our society, keeping communities of color from prosperity. Let us peacefully pursue justice, rather than destruction.

State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria)

I pray for justice, for George Floyd and his family and respect for one another throughout our communities.

State Rep. Keith Sommer (R-Morton)

Last night, there was young man who I know well that was shot in this community. My husband and I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Beverly Brown in her time of need. We love you. 

The peaceful protests across the country and in this community organized by young, educated leaders like Mariah Cooley, Autumn Cain, Sincere and others were from a deep, legitimate, genuine frustration over generational failures to deal with racism that has been choking the life out of our communities. The overwhelming majority of protestors have been courageous, peaceful and awe inspiring. These young leaders deserve our respect and full support, not criticism. I am grateful for their leadership, courage and commitment.

Then we have the the small groups of folks who’ve resorted to looting and violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or sheer opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction in our neighborhoods that have been divested in and were redlined for years and distracting from the larger issue. What we know from past experiences is that many of these businesses— particularly black owned and small businesses may never come back. They are burning and looting stores that our community relies on. That is not how you build community. These actions are dangerous and could set back the work of activists and accountable elected officials years.

Criminal justice reform and economic justice are issues that I have worked on for years and made significant policy changes to but still— more needs to be done. We have to continue to fight racist policies and attitudes of indifference toward black communities, but even in that— we CAN NOT burn our own communities down; excuse violence, or rationalize it. 

It is often important to takes notes from history and understand why protesting is important to those who are being ignored— it forces a light to be shown on an injustice, and to make people in power who have been ignoring the minority uncomfortable.  Actually, throughout American history, collective changes have only come in response to protests and civil disobedience that forced the political system to pay attention to marginalized communities. The cries of the marginalized must be heard and turned into funding properties, specific laws and ordinances and in this country that only happens when we elect officials who are responsive to collective demands.

This is an inflection point and I believe we can establish human dignity and racial justice as basic premise of our American democracy. 

I see you. I hear you. I’m with you. “

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria)

I pray for those close to George Floyd. The circumstances around his death are disturbing. I also pray that the demonstration and practice of free speech in our community be peaceful.

State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria)

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