CITY BEAT: THANKS, DECATUR, FOR A DEMONSTRATION AND ‘JUSTICE WALK’ THAT WERE VERY POSITIVE AND SENT THE RIGHT MESSAGE
Stand tall Decatur!
Like countless cities and communities across the nation, Decatur held a rally and march to focus attention on justice for George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis who died as a result of a police officer’s knee on his neck, and for racial equality.
Unlike most marches in other cities it was peaceful without incident as hundreds, from every walk of life, including community leaders, participated in the “Justice Walk” which started at the Decatur Civic Center and continued in a circular fashion on downtown streets. There were periods of silence and also a prayer rally.
Those participating in the “Justice Walk” exercised their constitutional rights and effectively made clear what the focus of the event was about. Despite rumors to the contrary before the walk, there was no outside radical element that took over the event. The people of our community came together in a spirit of unity and made their feelings known in the “Justice Walk”. They were highly successful in delivering that message.
Thanks to all involved in the “Justice Walk”.
• IT IS extremely important to point out that the “Justice Walk” was free of a lot of the violence involved in marches in other cities because community leaders, both black and white, have been working together for a long time in addressing issues that foster bad communication and negative results for most cities.
A news conference was held Monday morning to ask the community to come together to end the violence and destructive behavior that has been on display in cities around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. Dr. Jeanelle Norman, president of the local NAACP, spoke along with Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, Decatur Police Chief Jim Getz and several other leaders. Speakers called for protests about the death of Floyd at the hands of a police officer to remain peaceful. It was peaceful and inspirational.
An earlier demonstration on Saturday at the intersection of North Franklin and Eldorado was also peaceful and another demonstration on Sunday afternoon, which started in Central Park had both Police Chief Jim Getz and Sheriff Tony Brown as two of the speakers. Following the meeting in Central Park, many of the protestors made their way to the intersection of North Franklin And Eldorado where the traffic flow was interrupted but those participating were non-violent,
Later that night several businesses in Decatur and Forsyth were damaged and some looting took place, but there appeared to be no connection to those who were using the events of the day to destroy and loot. A few other such incidents took place in the area, but, again, appeared to be by opportunistic thieves and not connected to the peaceful “Justice Walk”.
• A MESSAGE THAT was sent to the media from the City of Decatur Monday afternoon, before the protest march took place stated, in part: “We will protect all people’s Constitutional Rights to gather, protest, and march, but we will not tolerate vandalism, property destruction, or violence. Tonight, let’s prove that we can do things better in Decatur. We do not have to replicate what has happened in so many other large cities across our nation.”
Over the weekend, including Monday evening’s march, Decatur did prove that “we can do things better”.
• BOARDED UP — For the first time in my life, I saw the windows of several downtown businesses boarded up Monday afternoon in anticipation of what some thought would happen during Monday night’s protest. As I walked on East Main Street, Merchant Street and Prairie Avenue and saw the precautions being taken, it really seemed to be a different world, Several downtown businesses and offices started clearing out early Monday afternoon after reports that some protestors from Chicago were going to make an appearance at Monday’s protest. The Macon County Office Building closed at 3:30 on the first day of reopening following the virus lockdown.
• I THINK all of us, regardless of race or political status, were very upset and outraged to see in graphic video detail what happened to George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer as he begged for his life. I believe that short video and the deadly force applied not only killed Floyd, but caused a very negative image to be projected of law enforcement officers everywhere. Like any other profession, there are a few people who give all of the good and decent and outstanding members a bad name. Demonstrating the outrage and the need for a better way is something any clear thinking person believes is the right thing to do. Those who are demonstrating peacefully certainly have my respect and support and that of many others.
• RE-OPENING — Since the long-awaited “re-opening” of Decatur businesses and government offices, which started on Friday and continues today, I believe there is “cautious optimism” in the people I talk with — even though the re-openings come with restrictions, including wearing face masks and social distancing —that the first step is working. Food service businesses cannot operate at full capacity but being able to serve a limited number of people through outdoor seating is a beginning that, hopefully, will lead to a “back to full capacity” seating indoors.
How long that will take depends on what happens with the number of COVID-19 in our area in the coming days. If the numbers continue to go down over the upcoming days, businesses will be able to operate under reduced restrictions.
If the COVID-19 number shoots up, and businesses have to close, several of the owners have indicated they will close down permanently Local businesses and government offices are certainly doing everything they can to make where they work and serve the public as safe as possible.
• BUSINESSES can only do so much to keep their employees and workplace safe — the rest is up to those who patronize the stores, restaurants, offices and any other facility that has reopened. That’s why there are certain rules that customers will have to follow in order to be served or waited on in those facilities. The “mask or no mask” argument that seems to be driving a lot of the hot conversations these days and getting people upset, has been settled for many of the re-opened facilities: wear a mask or you won’t be permitted inside. Anyone who says they won’t patronize any business that requires a mask to be admitted can exercise that right and stay away. However, I also know people who will not patronize a business if the mask is not required for entrance.
• NOW OPEN — The Macon County Office Building is open to the public. Visitors are required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Masks will not be provided by the County. Each office may have additional safety precautions depending on their operations so it is suggested to contact the office prior to visiting. To avoid crowding it is recommended that business continue to be done online or by mail when possible.
• CHURCHES are now allowed to hold services but with some safety guidelines. Services were held at several area congregations this past Sunday as church leaders believed it was time to make that move. This is one area that is of particular concern for many I have talked with as they wondered how that type of meeting together will work out — even with social distancing in the pews. Hopefully, it will work out fine — and congregations have and will abide by key safety measures.
• JEN McMillin announced last week that she is a candidate for a seat on the Macon County Board from District 5. In an email she stated: “You already know that I’m a dedicated nonprofit and public administration professional with over a decade of experience in community advocacy, education, and child welfare. Now, I want to bring my experience to work for those that call Macon County, Illinois home. “Local governments are where real-life politics take place, where Democrats and Republicans hash things out for the best outcomes for their communities. My record of working across party lines and fighting for progressive issues is an excellent addition to the Macon County Board in District 5. I look forward to earning your vote in November.” McMillin, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully against Dan Caulkins for state representative in the 101st District two years ago. To learn more about her campaign for county board, you can visit JenMcMillin.com and click on #Jen4MaconCo
• A LOTTERY was conducted by Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner held in May to determine the ballot order for the November 3, 2020 election. The Republican Party will have first placement on the ballot. The Democratic Party will have second placement on the ballot. The Democratic Party was represented by Macon County Auditor, Carol Reed and the Republican Party was represented by Austin Township Supervisor, Craig Culp. Both were in attendance while the lottery was conducted.
• LAST WEEK’S item in this column that touted wearing a mask as being 75% effective drew a response from Dr. Lee Endsley who sent me an email: “I find that (75%) too optimistic as evidenced by the included article.
“I know of articles touting various percentages, but nothing close to 75%. Surgical masks often come in at about 44%. Frequent hand washing and not touching your face are much more important.” Thank you, Lee, for your response.
• HAIRCUT — By the time you read this, I will have experienced my first haircut in 12 weeks — about three times longer than I usually go between haircuts. In the past, I’ve sometimes thought I was going too long in making my appointment every four weeks. Anyhooo…a fresh haircut should take a load off of my head — at least the top of it! I know I’ve heard a lot from both men and women readers of this newspaper about how they couldn’t wait to go to the barber shop or hair salon.
• NOT QUITE YET: Although several businesses and offices have started opening up to the public again (with some restrictions) I’m not quite ready to open the newspaper to the public. We’ll probably re-open in a week or two, whenever I think it is safe for staff to work in the office again and for the public to be safe in entering the Trib. Even though greatly reduced staff hours has made it more difficult to publish the newspaper, not to mention the financial loss from lack of over-the-counter business, I think waiting a little longer to be on the safe side is what I feel is best for everybody.
Hopefully, everything will be somewhat back to normal (whatever “normal” will be) before too long. I really do appreciate your patience and encouraging words.
• I’M STILL enjoying discussing our community and what faces it on the City Hall Insider every Thursday morning at 7:00 with Brian Byers on WSOY’s “Byers & Co.” via that old instrument called “the telephone”.
Sure looking forward to getting back to the studio in the near future…hopefully.