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Black, Latino Caucuses condemn violence, call for unity

unity presserCHICAGO – Members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus held a press conference to address divisions between Black and Latino communities. As some protests over the murder of George Floyd have been infiltrated by those hoping to incite violence and racial tension, officials condemned the rioting and emphasized the need for cooperation in their fight for justice.

State Senators Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago), Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), Omar Aquino (D-Chicago), Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) and Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) were joined by elected officials from all levels of government.

Officials called for the General Assembly and executive branches to implement policies including community policing, demilitarizing law enforcement agencies, equitable investment in communities of color and accountability for officers who abuse force.

“This fight is against racism, oppression and white supremacy – not against each other. It’s a fight for accountability for the ridiculously long list of lives taken, from George Floyd and back hundreds of years.” State Senator Celina Villanueva

“I will not stand here and watch our two communities fight each other for crumbs. None of us win if we are too busy competing to get our fair share from those who take the majority. I want to acknowledge the young Black and Latino people who showed up in Little Village and Cicero in solidarity with one another. I want to thank them for stepping up and leading during this time. In the spirit of the unity they displayed, I am calling on all Black and Latino people to unite and stand against racism and oppression.” State Senator Kimberly Lightford

“When the Black community hurts, so do we in the Latino community. That’s why we are standing up with you all because you are not just colleagues and friends, but family. When we work together, we can not only be at the table, but setting the agenda. From Washington, to Springfield, to City Hall we must stand together to lead and make real change.” State Senator Omar Aquino

“In memory of the many lives tragically lost and affected by racial violence, I stand in strong support of introducing and enacting meaningful reform to further protect Black and brown lives from police brutality, racial profiling and other discriminatory acts people have grown too accustomed to. In order to condemn racism in its many forms, we must be united to invoke change in our broken economic, health care and criminal justice systems.” State Senator Iris Martinez

"Since my career in public service began, at no time has there been a greater need or opportunity for a pivotal social movement driven by Black and Latino Chicagoans focused on ending police violence and eradicating systemic inequality in all its forms. However, misplaced anger expressed through violence is the biggest threat to our progress because one thing I know for certain is this movement doesn't start at City Hall or in Springfield, it starts on the ground in our communities. The collective voice of the people we serve has the potential to be an all-powerful force for justice and equality, but it's going to take a unified coalition built on grassroots solidarity and mutual respect." State Senator Mattie Hunter

“Black lives matter. It is extremely difficult to be a person of color in America, and I stand strongly and proudly with my Black brothers and sisters in their struggle for justice. As lawmakers, we have not just a duty to fix the problems faced by Black communities on a daily basis, but also the power to personally do the fixing. We must seek a legislative response to these pressing issues.” State Senator Cristina Castro

Senate Black Caucus members stand with communities in calling for swift action

Sen. Christopher Belt

SPRINGFIELD—Senators of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus released the following statement after the protests and riots in Chicago brought on by racist acts of violence against countless African Americans, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor: 

Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville), ILBC Senate Co-chair

“In 1903, the great black scholar, W.E.B. Dubois, stated “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line. Here we stand in 2020, fighting for justice and equality because of that very same issue, the color line. That said, please understand this is not just ‘our’ problem, but rather, it is a ‘we’ problem. I am calling on my fellow legislators to stand with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to denounce this system of racial injustice that injures, destroys and kills not only people of color, but the very fabric of the American tapestry,” Belt said.

Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood)

“COVID-19 was not done showing us just how deep the inequities in our country are before we had another series of Black murders at the hands of racists in the headlines. It is exhausting to feel like you have been yelling at the top of your lungs for years without being heard, and I am deeply pained for our people forced to live in fear in the very country they helped build,” Lightford said. “I extend a call to action to my colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly and legislators across the country to hear the ache in the hearts of those who are fed up. We can only move forward by coming together to ensure every individual’s basic human rights are protected.”

Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago)

“What we are witnessing from many of the protestors is a demand for change—an acknowledgment that the status quo is unacceptable and must end. They are crying out, screaming to be heard and wondering aloud how many more will have to die before we finally recognize the sanctity of black lives,” Sims said. “As we fight tirelessly for justice, I ask that we don’t use lawlessness as a means to do it. I know there is an overwhelming need to be heard and understood. If no one else hears you, I do. I will continue to work relentlessly with leaders on all levels to fix our utterly broken system and hold bad actors accountable. We can, and we will, achieve change together.”

Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago)

"The story of this crisis isn’t the looting, it is the why, the what, and the how,” Peters said. “Why are people so mad? Why are people so hurt? What do people need? How are we going to help?"

Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago)

“Just in the last month, we’ve mourned the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and now George Floyd,” Van Pelt said. “How many more names must be said? Countless black lives were lost at the hands of police, failed under a system that was never meant to protect them, never meant to protect people that look like me. We can’t breathe, and haven’t been able to since we were abducted from the shores of our native land."

Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago)

"What we are witnessing today is the strange fruit sown by institutional racism and neglect. It has given us a harvest of poverty, mass incarceration, food and health deserts as well as educational inequity.  We are not only fighting a virus, but violence and vandalism. Yet, we should not conflate the peaceful protests and righteous indignation with the criminality of a few bad apples," Collins said.

"The days ahead of us must be days of rebuilding and healing, but they must also be days of reform and accountability that save lives. We must come together with one voice to say 'Black Lives Matter.' If we do not have reform and accountability, then there can truly be no healing."

Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago)

 “The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are painful illustrations of the deep-rooted systems of oppression, and systems of protection for bad actors, that continue to burden African-American families. These murders sow further hopelessness, anger, and agony, which has been expressed over the past few days through widespread protests. While some have seen this as an excuse to commit shameful acts of destruction, it was heartening to see countless Chicagoans take to the streets to peacefully demand justice and make our voices heard in a productive way,” Hunter said.

“Our path forward must not end with protests. Now is the time to harness our collective anger to galvanize a movement toward ending police violence and enacting transformational reforms centered around police accountability, transparency, and oversight.”

Senator Emil Jones III (D-Chicago)

"It is sickening that we have to continuously address the racial biases the criminal justice system has against Black Americans. It's evident how much racial disparity is prevalent throughout the justice system and how much officers believe we are so much of a threat to the country that we helped build.

"The whole situation is just tiring, and a change is more than overdue. Even if you're not a part of the problem, you must be well aware of the harassment that blacks receive daily and how the media would rather paint a bad picture of us than be a part of the solution. 

"We cannot solve this problem on our own. We profess no easy answers. It's obvious that real change will only happen when all of America believes Black Lives Matter."

Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Dolton)

“The young people of America have mobilized in unified outrage and it is time we acknowledged their cries. It is time we acknowledged the humanity and grievances of African-Americans throughout this country."