George Floyd Protests Spark Legislation After More Than A Week of Demonstrations

Zack Miller | The Phoenix

Protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody have now filled Chicago’s streets for more than a week, forcing city legislators to respond to the protester’s demands.

Thousands of protesters gathered once again — this time in Union Park — after more than a week of demonstrations to demand police accountability and reforms to law enforcement. 

The first official protest, which was organized by Black Lives Matter Chicago, occurred May 30 in Federal Plaza. A few days later, Rogers Park joined the global protests with several hundred protesters lining North Sheridan Road.

In Minneapolis, all four officers at the scene of Floyd’s death have now been charged. Derek Chauvin — the officer that kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes — had his charges upgraded from third-degree to second-degree murder while the other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor — another black citizen killed by law enforcement that has sparked protests — have yet to be charged, though the FBI has opened an investigation into the incident. 

Since the initial demonstrations took place, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has promised police reform in the next 90 days. Some changes include mandatory de-escalation and crisis intervention training for officers and educating officers on the communities they serve.

These reforms came packaged with a fund to help small businesses damaged during the violent aftermath of the protests. Loyola’s Water Tower Campus was damaged May 30 during the looting and property damage that took the place of peaceful protests in the city after dark.

Vehicle traffic into the downtown area of the city was previously limited, with Lake Shore Drive closed between Fullerton Street and 31st Street and most freeway exits being closed off to non-essential workers and non-residents. The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications announced June 7 all roadway and public transit restrictions were being lifted.

In addition to police reform, other legislation is also being passed through to the City Council. A resolution introduced back in December — which would establish a 16 member council called the Chicago Descendants of Enslaved Africans Reparations Commission — passed unanimously in the Committee on Health and Human Relations June 5. 

The commission — which would be comprised of the mayor, five City Council members and 10 members of the public — would hold public hearings and create a path to ensuring “equity, equality, and parity for citizens of African descent in Chicago who are mired in poverty.”

Maria Hadden — alderwoman of the 49th ward, which covers Rogers Park — spoke before the resolution’s passage at the committee meeting, saying city officials needed to act on the issue before the city falls into the same cycle of “oppression and pain and struggle.”

“We need to put our money where our mouth is,” Hadden said during the meeting. “And show the people of Chicago, the black people of Chicago, particularly the youth of Chicago, that we value them. … If we let this opportunity go we are going to find ourselves in the same cycle of oppression and pain and struggle.”

Hadden didn’t immediately respond to request for comment. 

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