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Springfield Names May 31 BLM Solidarity Day, Requires Anti-Racism Training For Employees

Protesters in a Black Lives Matter car parade on May 31 in Springfield.
Mary Hansen
NPR Illinois
Protesters in a Black Lives Matter car parade on May 31 in Springfield.

The Springfield City Council approved an anti-racism, anti-violence and anti-hatred resolution Wednesday night that would name May 31 as BLM Solidarity Day in honor of the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

The resolution also requires anti-racism and cultural competency training for all city staff, commissioners and contractors, and encourages investment in wards 2 and 3, changes suggested last week by Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner.

“It's a great vehicle for us to move forward with that structural change and it will then codify or put into action and put into our policies and procedures, all of the nice words that were in the resolution,” Turner told NPR Illinois.

Despite last-minute amendments proposed by Mayor Jim Langfelder and the NAACP, the council voted in favor of the version discussed last week. Eight of 10 city council members had signed on co-sponsors. 

Langfelder put forward the original language that honored the local chapter of Black Lives Matter and Education, Action Together, which organized rallies in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

He made proposed changes on Wednesday night that recognized the NAACP Springfield chapter and the 1908 Race Riot that sparked its founding, and made a handful of other changes.

However, the majority of city council members voted down the chance to include those changes, to Langfelder’s frustration.

“We can talk all we want about unity and working together, but this kind of flies in the face of it, in my opinion,” Langfelder said.

Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory said he respects the NAACP, but argued the resolution should be left as it is.

“It was created to include others who traditionally are not in this, despite the struggle for our community, and we included them in it,” he said, before voting “no” to discuss the amendment. “And I would like for them to continue to be in that and not be overshadowed by the NAACP.”

He said the city council would consider again the 10 Shared Principles, which the NAACP Illinois and Illinois Chiefs of Police developed in 2018.

Springfield previously adopted the principles, and Langfelder proposed reaffirming those principles in the weeks after anti-police brutality protests. The council tabled that resolution, with some arguing the city needed to adopt policies that would put those principles into action before reaffirming their commitment to them.

Teresa Haley, president of Illinois and Springfield chapters of the NAACP, took issue with the civil rights group and history of the race riots being left out of the anti-racism resolution discussed Wednesday. She called the move “divisive.”

“We aren’t trying to outshine anyone. We are trying to uphold the NAACP and our beliefs and improve race relations not only in Springfield, not only in Illinois, but throughout the whole country,” she said.

Haley spoke at the end of the meeting, hours after the resolution had been approved. She said she felt the community should have been involved in developing the resolution. 

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin pointed out usually public speakers who want to comment on an ordinance or issue up for debate and lamented that Haley was not given that opportunity.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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