Read and recorded at the June 16, 2020, Village Board meeting
Over the last three months, the Village of Lansing has experienced a rollercoaster of events unlike any in its history. We currently find our community and our country in a time of great turmoil dealing with a worldwide pandemic that has all but shut down our economy. Simultaneously, we see a country wrestling with issues of prejudice and racial discrimination raised by recent high-profile incidents in the U.S. between law enforcement officers and the public. People throughout the country are marching in the streets to protest the actions of some members of nationwide police departments. Lansing has been a direct victim of the ugliest aspects of this civil unrest, but our residents have also been a model for how different perspectives and emotions can peacefully and respectfully be displayed in an attempt to promote social change.
On Sunday, May 31st, looters associated with the unrest attempted to tear a path of destruction through our Torrence Avenue business corridor. Our Lansing Police Department responded in force, spending several hours feverishly working to protect our businesses and residents. Most of our police officers were in the midst of this dangerous situation, along with other employees from Public Works and our Fire Department who were assisting nearby. Thankfully, and to me miraculously, only two of our officers sustained minor injuries. Through their heroic efforts, these officers were able to reduce the potential damage to individuals and property. Make no mistake: without their efforts, our community would have suffered much greater pain and loss. I am beyond grateful for the response of our officers that day, and thank Police Chief Dennis Murrin and his force for putting their lives on the line every day to protect Lansing. As I observed the destruction early the next morning with my husband, and again later that day with Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, my heart ached and I wondered how we could begin to heal and rebuild — not just the damage done — but our hearts. Doing damage to businesses harms all of us because these businesses provide jobs, and the business owners and employees are members of our community. They are our friends, family, and neighbors. The concerns and feelings of anger and sadness that peaceful protesters are expressing are understandable, but this type of unlawful behavior is unacceptable to all of us.
What we have also experienced here in Lansing, on the other hand, are shining examples of how democracy can effectively and properly be put on display. Over the last two weeks, three different groups have collaborated with our Lansing Police Department and the Village Administration to coordinate events balancing the rights of those who wished to protest with the need to protect both active participants and bystanders. These peaceful, law-abiding citizens all exercised their constitutional right to protest issues of social importance, but did so in a manner which was completely respectful to Lansing residents and businesses. I sincerely thank the leaders of these three protests as well as our Lansing Police Department for their willingness to work toward the common goal of peaceful and protected civic demonstrations.
I want to specifically mention my admiration for the three young men — Cam Sanchez, Chawn Wilson, and Jawaan Dorch — who worked together with our police department to organize a very peaceful gathering at Lan-Oak Park on June 5th. I was thankful and impressed to see them begin their message with a prayer and acknowledgement to our police department for helping them. I was so moved to see the mothers of the young men speak, and proud that many of my friends and neighbors came to hear these young men speak in peace.
Serious dialogue about race and police, community and youth relations have been taking place in Lansing through the efforts of this administration and the Lansing Police Department since the summer of 2017. These discussions have led to positive changes and improvements to policy and fair and equal recruitment of new police officers. Additionally, multiple groups, including TF South High School students and administration, the Lansing Police Department, and Village officials, worked together for several months to create an educational video for Lansing students designed to address interactions between police and the public, particularly younger individuals. The video has been commended by the U.S. Department of Justice for its professionalism and its ability to improve the understanding of police engagement with the public. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the video’s debut within the curriculum at TF South was postponed. In light of recent events, the video will soon be available to the public through the Village’s YouTube channel and other media platforms.
Another resource for Lansing residents to seek out in creating meaningful dialogue for change is the Lansing Human Relations Commission. As this independent and diverse group prepares to resume public meetings in July, residents are encouraged to connect with the members to discuss not only the isolated topic of police reform, but also broader avenues in which programs and ideas focusing on diversity can truly be embraced and implemented within the Village.
None of this is easy, and I understand we have more work to do in the area of eliminating discrimination and racism. All of us do. I want to build on the progress we have made over the past few years and continue to listen to the voices in our village that have suggestions for positive change. Many of these voices are from younger residents, and I encourage them to continue asking questions and seeking accountability. I also ask them to learn about and participate in what our Village is already doing in the areas of community policing and neighborhood outreach to ensure the best possible interactions between the Lansing Police Department and Lansing residents.
Like many other communities, Lansing is exhausted and emotional from the pandemic still affecting so many of our lives. It is my sincere hope that our Village can begin to heal, both from the grip of COVID-19, and through a renewed focus on ideas designed to ensure that diverse groups of residents and businesses from within our community feel included in shaping Lansing’s future.
Patricia L. Eidam, Mayor
Village of Lansing, Illinois