Marchers move from the streets to Rockford's City Hall. They want answers and action after recent police-involved shootings killed Demetrius Bennett and 18-year-old Logan Bell. A few aldermen used Monday night's city council meeting to address these issues.
Demonstrators who walked Monday afternoon in what they call the "March for the Children"' are upset with the way officers handled these situations.
"We want a federal investigation, we want Chief Epperson's resignation." -says Kingdom Authority Church Reverend Melvin Brown.
Marchers brought their demands to city council members. Some aldermen responded saying the problem is rooted in race.
"All of us in one form, shape, or another bring a little bias and a little prejudice to our plate, but we need to deal with that we can't just ignore it." -says 14th Ward Alderman Bill Robertson.
"This community is made up of all nationalities and if we don't sit and acknowledge the issues and the problems we have in this community we'll continue to have them." -adds 7th Ward Alderman Ann Thompson-Kelly.
Even though some protesters want Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson gone, the aldermen speaking feel differently.
Lifelong resident and 5th Ward Alderman Venita Hervey says, "I've seen this department transform from a department in which I was afraid of the police to a department in which the people in my ward absolutely love our CSO."
Rockford police shot and killed Bennett November 1st after officers say he lunged at them with a knife. Three weeks before that, officers killed Bell. Bell allegedly pointed a gun at police. It turned out to be a pellet gun that looked just like the real thing.
4th Ward Alderman Carl Wasco says, "When you're faced with a weapon you have to react to that and I put my faith into our administration and our police department."
Two recent Rockford Police involved shootings have some people calling for a federal investigation into the deaths. A couple dozen people marched through the city's downtown demanding justice. Organizers of the march say Rockford's mayor has the power to bring in federal investigators to look at these deadly force instances to see if they are really what police claim they are.
Demetrius Bennett was shot by Rockford Police in his home November 1st after officers say he lunged at them with a knife. Police Chief Chet Epperson originally said Bennett used a child as a human shield but retracted that statement the next day. Bennett's family members were a part of the march but only spoke through their attorney.
"They shot him cold-blooded murder and we are prepared to prove that," says J. Allen Johnson, Bennett Family Attorney.
A few weeks before Bennett's death Logan Bell, 18, was shot and killed by police after he pointed what looked to be a handgun at officers. It turned out to be a pellet gun that looked just like the real thing.
Protestors marched through Rockford's downtown chanting.
"What do we want?"
Other people came out to what was titled "March for the Children" to support justice and equality for everyone.
"Being a citizen from Rockford I just think that everyone deserves respect from all around, law enforcement, citizens, we all deserve the same respect," says a marcher who did not want to be identified.
The group marched from Kingdom Authority Church to the Public Safety Building over to the Winnebago County Justice Center and then to Rockford's City Hall calling for change to come from the top.
"I don't know why the citizens of Rockford allow the killing to continue. It's a disease, the disease is racism," says Johnson.
The mayor's office released a statement following the march by Rockford residents.
"The City fully supports the free expression of community concerns through walks and marches. We are empathetic to the concerns voiced today and will continue to support our citizens and our officers in our mutual pursuit to a safer community," says Mayor Larry Morrissey. (For the full statement see the related links to the left of the story.)
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