Urbana City Council appoints Aaron Ammons, moves Taser proposal forward

By Fatima Farha

The Urbana City Council unanimously appointed Aaron Ammons as Alderman for Ward 3 at its meeting Monday night.

Aaron has been active in the Urbana community through his work with various social justice groups and Service Employees International Union Local 73. His appointment was met with large support from his fellow community members who attended the meeting.

Several individuals spoke in support of Aaron at Monday’s meeting, including his wife Carol Ammons, former Ward 3 alderwoman and current state representative for the 103rd district. She believes he is a worthy candidate because he can represent the African-American community and their struggles. He is currently the only African-American represented on the council.

“What we do need in Ward 3 is someone who will be able to bring something solid to the table and challenge the status quo,” Carol said. “You don’t want to have someone representing poor people largely — a people working very low-wage jobs, who don’t have a lot of resources — who cannot relate to that.”

Patricia Avery, president of the Champaign branch of the NAACP, also spoke in favor of Aaron. She previously worked on a jury selection committee led by Aaron.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    Avery also said she has seen how Aaron has led the community through issues of social justice in the past, and she admires his work.

    “I looked at the work Aaron has been doing in this community for social justice,” Avery said. “And I’ve watched him over the years as he has developed, as he has worked really hard to organize the community around very tough issues that many people would run away from.”

    Aaron is a co-founder of Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, an organization that focuses on social justice issues in the community. The group has frequently spoken against the proposal of Tasers for the Urbana Police Department.

    Aaron spoke out against the purchase of Tasers during the meeting.

    He said that while there has been a lot of discussion on the matter of Tasers and the proposed policies, the city council has not paid enough attention to the African-American community and its feelings against Tasers.

    “We keep moving to the policy and how restrictive it is. Why don’t you spend that amount of time listening to the African-Americans’ particular concerns?” Aaron asked. “All we have been asking for is a level of diversity and a level of understanding about the concerns that we have. There is no overwhelming need for us to rush this.”

    Despite Aaron’s concerns, other city council members were in favor of the purchase of Tasers by the Urbana Police Department. Alderwoman Diane Marlin, Ward 7, said the ordinance is a very restrictive, fair and transparent policy that will be monitored again after a year to see how it progresses.

    “What we have here is an ordinance that balances the right of the public to have responsible and responsive policing and it balances the rights of our employees to be equipped with the tools that they need to do their jobs,” Marlin said.

    At the end of the meeting, the city council voted to send the proposal to purchase Tasers to council with a recommendation for approval, where it will be given a final vote.

    Fatima can be reached at [email protected].