Approximately 20 people, most of them young, gathered May 25 for a march through Brookfield and Riverside to mark the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The small turnout was a marked contrast to several marches last June in Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield when hundreds turned out to protest police brutality against people of color, part of a national wave of outrage that followed the death of Floyd and others at the hands of police.
But Nathan Palmer, a North Riverside resident who recently graduated from Western Illinois University and one of the main organizers of the march, said he wasn’t concerned about the turnout.
“I don’t think there is any reason to be disappointed,” Palmer said. “If people want to come out, those are the people I want to come out, regardless of how many people it is.”
The marchers gathered at Brookfield Village Hall and then marched 1.5 miles to Guthrie Park in downtown Riverside, staying on sidewalks the entire way. They repeated various chants such as “Hey, hey ho, ho, racist cops have got to go” and “this is what democracy looks like.”
Before the march started, Riverside-Brookfield High School freshman Raven McKelvin addressed the group.
“We all have to make a change together,” McKelvin said. “What we can do as a community is when you see things that don’t look right, tell people.”
Some marchers held signs advocating defunding police. Palmer said the purpose of the march was to highlight oppressed peoples and to call for action to halt all oppression.
“Like Angela Davis said, freedom is a constant struggle,” said Palmer, referencing the controversial far-left political activist and scholar. “So, we can’t go for just one summer and be done, it has to be consistent. Just because Chauvin’s been convicted doesn’t mean the system actually been changed or anything has been made different.”
Palmer said he hoped the march would educate people who saw or listened to the marchers.
“We hope that people in the neighborhood can open their minds to different ways of thinking that they may not have been introduced to in school or that maybe they were introduced to but maybe never got a deeper learning or teaching in,” Palmer said.
Some of the marchers, including Palmer, are active in the group History Never Taught a group started by local young people last year to highlight aspects of American history often bypassed in schools and conventional teaching.
In his remarks to the group at Guthrie Park following the march, Palmer urged participants to ally with oppressed people and criticized capitalism as an inherently oppressive system.
He said Floyd’s killing was a reflection of a capitalist system that preys on Black people. Palmer urged people not to buy food from large corporations like Amazon but to patronize local businesses or growers.
“We are looking to be self-reliant and not rely on any capitalist for food,” Palmer said.
Palmer also said that privileged people should not judge the tactics that oppressed people use, including looting.
“We do not get to criticize when an oppressed group rises up against oppression,” Palmer said. The march and rally concluded when North Riverside resident, Audrey Santora, a student at Washington University, read off a list of people who have been recently been killed by police.