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Local News

Will County officials call attention to racism in the criminal justice system

'Trying to breathe is not resisting arrest'

Will County elected officials like Will County Board Speaker Denise Winfrey and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster argued for change in the criminal justice system as protests arose over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Will County elected officials like Will County Board Speaker Denise Winfrey and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster argued for change in the criminal justice system as protests arose over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Will County elected officials called for action to address racial injustice as protests erupted across the nation following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other African Americans in recent months.

Some officials released statements condemning violent protests, but also focusing on racial disparities within the criminal justice system and the movements like Black Lives Matter advocating for change.

Denise Winfrey, D-Joliet, speaker of the Will County Board, wrote in an open letter that she is "in support of those who have been killed, abused, mistreated, and lied about by those who are entrusted to protect them."

"Trying to breathe is not resisting arrest," she wrote. "Asking for pertinent information about a stop is not resisting arrest. Being Black, Brown or Red is not illegal!"

Winfrey also released a statement with Nick Palmer, chief of staff to Will County Executive Larry Walsh, lauding those in the county who have demonstrated nonviolently and thanking first responders for their service.

Will County Board member Ken Harris, D-Bolingbrook, also wrote an open letter reacting to the unrest in response to Floyd's death.

Harris said as a African American man serving in government, he felt it was his responsibility to "speak up and call out injustice." He said he "strongly" supports the Black Lives Matter movement and its call for action.

"Results are what's needed now to fix what we already know is broken," Harris wrote. "The time is now."

Harris also condemned some of the unrest and said that "looting, rioting and criminal activity is not the solution and has no place here."

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, tweeted Monday that he joined a "peaceful demonstration" in Naperville over the weekend "with those calling for justice and reform to a system that too often allows discrimination and oppression to go unchallenged."

In another social media post, the congressman called Floyd's death "heartbreaking and shameful." He added, "Justice requires criminal charges, and changes to a system that continually permits such disturbing displays of brutality and the oppression of people of color."

Foster also criticized President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis. He tweeted a photo from his congressional account of a dimly lit White House from over the weekend. Trump was taken to the White House bunker Friday night as protesters gathered outside.

"What a fitting image from @realDonaldTrump last night when the nation most needed leadership," Foster tweeted.

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