Local community joins Urbana City Council meeting to address police brutality

By Diana Anghel, Assistant News Editor

On Monday night, the Urbana City Council met over Zoom to address the topic of police brutality, in light of the recent death of George Floyd and the community’s concerns on the case of Aleyah Lewis. 

A Facebook event named “SHOW UP: Tell Urbana City Council to End Police Violence” urged CU community members to attend Monday’s meeting to demand local action against police brutality, more specifically in the case of Aleyah Lewis, to “call for all charges against Aleyah Lewis to be dropped” and “a truly meaningful and independent investigation” on her case.

The event, organized by local community members alongside the CU chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, interested almost 500 Facebook users. 

The revolt against Lewis’ case comes after a video was released of the woman being aggressively restrained and punched by police from the Urbana Police Department. Lewis now faces four felony counts for resisting arrest and aggravated battery toward police officers. 

With national protests, movements and outrage over George Floyd’s case growing by the minute, the council began the meeting by commenting on the recent happenings. 

“It was so coldblooded and intentional,” Council Member Eric Jakobsson said. “It was worse than an act of sudden violence. And, of course I had to think, as every father of an African American man would have to think, that could have been my son, or might someday be my son if he happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” 

Maryalice Wu, council member, said that she hears the concerns the community is raising.

“I feel like there are steps we are taking and should continue to take. Number one, we have asked for an independent review of the Aleyah Lewis case, which I strongly support,” Wu said. “We need to have a conversation at the city council level of how we can influence and help shape the police procedures.” 

The meeting was repeatedly interrupted by Zoom bombing: People entering the call and displaying inappropriate behaviors, saying slurs or “trolling” on screen. However, the council decided to continue and dedicate the meeting to public comments. 

An inflood of emails was received by the council from the community fighting for Lewis’ charges to be dropped, for a meaningful and independent investigation to take place, for the redesigning of the Civilian Review Board and other steps that reform police activities. These emails were read during the meeting. Additionally, tens of community members joined the call to make live comments.

Owen MacDonald, local resident and graduate worker at the University, was the author of an email that was read. 

“City council is in the unique position to do something about this in our local community,” MacDonald said. “The police should be abolished. As we work towards that, I implore that all charges against Aleyah Lewis be dropped, officers be fired, and the investigation be done by a non-police third party.” 

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