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Springfield Black Lives Matter Protests Continue, Demonstrators React To New Charges In Floyd’s Case

Haley Pate, Biron Butler and Korde Gardener protesting
Mike Smith
NPR Illinois
(from left to right) Haley Pate, Biron Butler and Korde Gardener at the Black Lives Matter protest in front of the Capitol on Wednesday.

Black Lives Matter protests in Springfield continued Wednesday. Young activists said they aren't giving up on voicing their concerns anytime soon. 

Korde Gardener, an 18-year-old Springfield native, attended protests on Monday and Wednesday. He arrived with two friends of the same age, Haley Pate and Biron Butler. Though the Wednesday protest was smaller in scale, Gardner said it’s important to keep showing up.

“If we don’t keep pressing, then nothing will get done,” Gardner said. “We have to keep coming back, no matter how small the number of people get. If we keep showing up, we’ll get attention. It doesn’t matter.”

Haley Pate is also from Springfield. She said seeing police brutality on television time after time compelled her to join the protests.

“A lot of the younger people are fighting for a future that’s fair,” Pate said. “We all want to be able to live and not worry about looking different and being different.”

Credit Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois
NPR Illinois
Protesters hold up their signs in front of the Capitol building in Springfield, Ill.

Biron Butler said peaceful protests like the ones in Springfield should be covered more than the rioting and looting.

“Protestors get bad publicity because some people think they’re rioters,” Butler said. “These people are different from the rioters. They actually want to give a message to the people and supporters that they’re here for peace and want only that.”

Wednesday’s protest had fewer than 100 people in attendance, which paled in comparison to the 1,000 protestors that showed up to march on Monday.

The protest carried on - yet some of those in attendance want to see local officials show up.

50-year-old Amanda Howze recently moved to Springfield and attended the protest with her husband. She said the lack of elected officials at the protests left her concerned.

“Where are the local officials?” Howze asked. “Where are they? They do need to show their face for people like us who are new so we can know that you do care, to see what you’re doing for Springfield, what you’re doing for Central Illinois.”

Amanda Howze and Donald Howze
Credit Mike Smith / NPR Illinois
NPR Illinois
Amanda Howze (right) and her husband Donald Howze (left) at the Black Lives Matter Protest Wednesday.

Howze said she is familiar with social injustice within the legal system.

“It is rampant, so there needs to be a change, not only for George Floyd and all the others who were murdered by police officers, but on a larger scale for the entire legal system,” Howze said. S

he said she and her husband were discussing the impact of young people organizing the protests and being the largest demographic to come out and support the cause.

“Looking around I see young people, very diverse,” she said. “They’re the ones who are going to make the change. We do need more younger people to be out in the forefront. I’m proud of them.”

At this week’s city council meeting, Springfield leaders congratulated protestors for their peaceful demonstration.

Springfield Residents React To New Charges

Demonstrators at Wednesday’s protests reacted to the news that all four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd are now in custody and are facing criminal charges.

Minnesota’s Attorney General announced Derek Chauvin, the officer who held Floyd’s neck to the ground will now face more severe charges - second degree murder, but he still faces charges of third degree murder and manslaughter.

The other three officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao weren’t initially charged in the murder, but as of Wednesday, they will be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Cory Donahue, a protester in Springfield said he agrees with the decision, arguing the officers must be held accountable.

“First degree charges wouldn’t have stuck at all, that's why that would've never worked, so when they hit him [Chauvin] with the third degree, from my first opinion of it, was that was one that would’ve actually...the better chance of him actually going to prison, and less chance of him getting away with it basically.”

They are scheduled to make their first court appearances on Thursday, while protests in Springfield and around the country continue.

Tina Freeman is a school teacher at District #186 in Springfield. She said she believes there are missing pieces to the story.

“They're taking a step in the right direction, I think they need to investigate a little further,” Freeman said. “I think George Floyd knew something about that officer, and officers 2, 3, and 4 need to speak up!”

Freeman said she believes the officer should be charged with first degree murder, but others argue it would be hard to prove it was premeditated or intentional.

The school teacher also said she’s not sure if the protests made a difference in the decision, but she thinks rioters burning down the Minneapolis Third Precinct police station made a difference in the decision to upgrade charges on Chauvin, and ignite charges for the other three.

“We have a lot of precincts to look at, and we have to investigate all of them,” Freeman said.

Although most protesters appeared to be satisfied with the news out of Minneapolis, they said they will be even happier if the officers are convicted. The four are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Mike Smith is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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