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Illinois Legislative Black Caucus delivers call to action in Rockford.

On June 5th, 2020 State Rep. Maurice West brought members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to town Friday to call for racial unity and to demand an emergency session of the General Assembly to approve social and economic reform legislation.

More than 100 elected officials, civic leaders and residents stood and listened to the lawmakers explain the urgent need for legislation to hold police officers accountable and to enhance the social and economic lives of all Illinoisians.

People in the crowd wore face masks and stood 6 feet apart — dutifully following the social distance guidelines in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The crowd patiently listened for more than an hour as speaker after speaker delivered a call to action under the hot afternoon sun on the east lawn of Booker Washington Center, the heart of Rockford’s black history and heritage.

The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer must awaken all Americans to the sobering truth of racial inequality, West said.

Americans can no longer afford to be silent or ambivalent “about where you stand on racial injustice. It makes others question what your true intentions really are.”

“Rock Valley College is a perfect example — and I’m disappointed,” West said.

West explained later on Friday that his statement about the city’s community college was a reference to the college’s “weak response to the death of George Floyd.”

West and other members of the Black Legislative Caucus are developing a “working list” of legislative reforms that they hope the General Assembly will approve — and that Gov. JB Pritzker will sign into law — as soon as possible. The reforms include economic and employment measures designed to improve the quality of life in minority communities and measures to hold police officers more accountable.

“We know our police departments don’t have rules and consequences,” said state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago. “They get to run rampant and kill black people.”

West said he has been inspired by peaceful protests that are happening in Rockford and across the country.

“The tide is changing,” West said. “This massive ship of injustice and inequality is turning. It’s no secret that it will take time to fully move in the right direction. But we are committed to do what must be done. ...That time is now and we will do this together.”


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