RSOs raise money for Ale’yah Lewis whose arrest sparked protests

Demonstrators+converge+at+the+intersection+of+Green+and+First+streets+to+listen+to+speakers+during+the+CCARC+protest+on+Aug.+28.+CCARC+is+one+of+the+local+organizations+raising+money+for+Ale%E2%80%99yah+Lewis.

Ryan Ash

Demonstrators converge at the intersection of Green and First streets to listen to speakers during the CCARC protest on Aug. 28. CCARC is one of the local organizations raising money for Ale’yah Lewis.

By Mona Alrazzaq, Staff Writer

University RSOs are raising money in order to provide a woman who was recorded being aggressively restrained by Champaign police in April with basic necessities as well as an experienced lawyer to defend her cases in court. 

After a 911 call involving a shooting incident in April, police officers were dispatched to East Colorado and South Cottage Grove avenues. Ale’yah Lewis, 21, was present at the scene along with her boyfriend, Kamorian Busby. 

Both Lewis and Busby were taken into custody at the scene. Cellphone footage that went viral as well as released police body camera footage recorded Lewis’s arrest.

The footage shows the beginning of the confrontation with a verbal exchange between Lewis and the officers where they were dispatched. It follows with officers restraining her aggressively by pushing her to the ground and punching her when she pulled away and resisted arrest.

An investigation by Champaign’s State Attorney Julia Rietz, as well as independent firm Hillard Heintze hired to investigate the incident, resulted in conclusions that the officers involved followed the Urbana Police Department’s policy. Heintze recommended changes to the department’s policy after the investigation. 

Charges were not dropped against Lewis following the aggressive arrest, and additional charges for an unrelated incident were filed. Lewis’s next court date is scheduled for Nov. 17 at 9 a.m.

A statement made by the University’s RSO Young Democratic Socialists of America says the video clearly shows Lewis was “brutally assaulted by the police.” They are attempting to raise money for a GoFundMe page created by Lewis’s friend, Meghan McDonald in order to assist Lewis. 

The fundraising page has raised $3,161 as of Nov. 10. Dat Luu, sophomore in LAS and a member of YDSA, says the money raised from the fundraising site goes directly to providing food security and home security for Lewis as well as to obtain legal help for her court case.

Lewis has received a copious amount of publicity ever since the video of her encounter with the police was released online without her consent, Luu said. He said because of this, Lewis has received hateful comments online and has had difficulty finding a job. 

“We wanna make sure that especially a victim of police brutality will be able to get back on her feet throughout winter and feel herself and prepare for the coming of her child,” Luu said. 

McDonald created the fundraiser in September and hopes to “gain enough money to sustain Ale’yah’s health and life during a pandemic.” They say that months after the arrest and “being publicly brutalized by the police,” Ale’yah lost her lease, her car and her job. 

“I want to let her know we care about her and are willing to be there for her in every sense and step of the way,” McDonald said. 

YDSA has actively raised money for Lewis’s fundraising page on campus by going to public places such as small businesses in order to put up fliers and also informing faculty and students about the donation process.

Luu claimed that the places they have asked so far “all willingly give up their space and all willingly listen to the story of Ale’yah Lewis.” In addition to YDSA, Champaign County Anti-Racist Coalition and Black Students for Revolution are other organizations at the University advocating for Lewis. 

Members of these organizations as well as individual advocates have contributed to representation at city council meetings to specifically mention Lewis by name and try to advocate for police reform according to Luu. 

McDonald emphasized the importance of ensuring basic needs for Lewis at a time where she needs it the most. They also saw this as an opportunity to “put mutual aid to work.” 

“I want to see that the community takes care of her and doesn’t just use her as a name at protests and city council meetings as an example of police brutality,” McDonald said. 

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