PSL holds rally for Tyre Nichols, organizes against adoption of new FOP contract


Jessie Wang

Protestors with the Party for Socialism and Liberation gather outside of the Champaign County courthouse on Sunday. The demonstration called for justice for Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man killed earlier this year by police officers in Memphis.

By Jessie Wang and Aidan Sadovi

The Champaign Urbana chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation held a rally in front of the County courthouse on Sunday calling for justice for Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who was beaten and killed by Memphis police officers in early January. 

The assembly would later take to the street and march in the biting January cold to the Urbana city building about 2 miles away. 

“First, and foremost, we’re here in solidarity with the family of Tyre Nichols, the people of Memphis and the larger national Justice For Tyre movement to really shine a light on the issue of systemic police violence,” Derek Briles, a PSL organizer, said. 

Many community members and University students attended the rally. 

“What happened with Tyre Nichols was just horrendous and it just keeps happening over and over, “ said Sandy Hannum, an Urbana resident. “You just have to show up and say something about it.”

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Manny Stewart, a senior in LAS, noted the importance of advocating for change. 

“This is a pretty bad extrajudicial killing and I think it’s very important for people to acknowledge (the need for) systemic changes,” Stewart said. 

“Police violence and misconduct is not just a feature of big cities. It also exists in Champaign-Urbana,” Briles said.   

Briles spoke of  a lack of transparency and accountability with the Urbana Police department particularly, and said PSL has been organizing to block the adoption of a new contract for the Fraternal Order of Police and the city of Urbana. 

Briles said the FOP “specifically shields cops who do bad things,” and that the prospective contract doesn’t address police misconduct, as well as contains specific language that limits the authority of a civilian police review board.  

Of the 24 articles contained in the current contract, none are about police misconduct, but the City of Urbana may choose to adopt and maintain a Civilian Police Review Board. 

However, according to the current contract, police officers subject to CPRB proceedings shall not be required to appear before the CPRB; their appearance shall be optional. 

In the prospective contract, there are also no articles that address police misconduct, although there is also an article about a CPRB.

At the time of writing, the Illinois FOP Labor council could not be immediately reached for comment.

In regards to the FOP Negotiations with the city thus far, PSL member and senior in LAS Michael Beckman spoke of a rushed process that he said did not take into account community input. 

“The purpose of what we’re organizing around is how … the FOP just tried to rush (the contract) through without really getting input from community members. They had their bargaining in a closed session. And they’re doing it six months ahead of time,” Beckman said.

The current FOP contract doesn’t expire until June of 2023, and bargaining meetings, as Beckman alluded to, have been held in closed sessions. 

Pamela Van Wyk, an Urbana resident said that she believes that police unions need to change in order to create greater accountability. 

“It’s unless the unions change,” Van Wyk said. “They really tie the hands of people in the police department who want to hold officers accountable, and until we hold officers and everybody else accountable, we continue having problems.”

“The PSL platform on police systems also connects to the party’s larger goals of socialist re-organization in the interest of the working class,” Briles said.

“Police violence and misconduct is a systemic issue,” Briles said. “Our goal is to see a society that is led by working people, not by the wealthy elite, so checking the police force works toward that end.”


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