Protests against police brutality must be acknowledged

Citizens+of+the+Champaign-Urbana+district+protest+against+the+non-indictment+of+Champaign+Police+Department+officer+Matt+Rush+at+the+Champaign+County+Courthouse+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+26%2C+2016.
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Protests against police brutality must be acknowledged

Citizens of the Champaign-Urbana district protest against the non-indictment of Champaign Police Department officer Matt Rush at the Champaign County Courthouse on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

Citizens of the Champaign-Urbana district protest against the non-indictment of Champaign Police Department officer Matt Rush at the Champaign County Courthouse on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

Sarah Park

Citizens of the Champaign-Urbana district protest against the non-indictment of Champaign Police Department officer Matt Rush at the Champaign County Courthouse on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

Sarah Park

Sarah Park

Citizens of the Champaign-Urbana district protest against the non-indictment of Champaign Police Department officer Matt Rush at the Champaign County Courthouse on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

By Da Yeon Eom

At the Champaign County Courthouse last Friday, protesters chanted “Matt Rush must go” while holding posters that read “This State’s Attorney Has Failed to Protect Public Safety” and “Age is Not a License to Abuse.”

They argued that police brutality cannot be tolerated, and that officials should investigate the alleged wrongdoings of the police force. Also, suggestions have been made that a system needs to be established to keep the police officers in check.

During his years of duty, Champaign police officer Matt Rush has been criticized for allegedly using unnecessary force against citizens, failing to include details of said incidents in police documents and causing liability for the city with a series of lawsuits that amounted to $320,000.

He was released from his job in 2014, but the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council reinstated him back to his duty.

It’s believed that he served enough penalty for his actions and the suspension was adequate. A past protest asked for Rush to take responsibility for his actions, but Julia Rietz, the state attorney for the Champaign Police Department, denied the citizens’ request to release him from the police force.

Several members of the local African-American community have alleged that they were unjustifiably assailed by Rush.

They all pressed charges so they could be compensated for the threat they experienced to their safety.

Activists from organizations such as Black Lives Matter Champaign Chapter and the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice protested outside of the Champaign courthouse.

They demanded the resignation of Rietz and the prosecution of Rush. Petition circulation has increased heavily during these protests due to Rush’s continued actions.

Appropriate consequences must be taken in regard to police brutality across the nation. Over the past few years, national incidents such as the deaths of Michal Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland have occurred.

The protestors rightfully believe that police officers shouldn’t be provided with immunity from the civil law that citizens are expected to follow.

“Some police act with impunity because they are allowed to do so, as Rush’s case shows,” said Danielle Chynoweth, a former city council member in Urbana who helped to establish the Civilian Review Board of Police.

Police officers must recognize they are citizens themselves, who have to follow the same laws that others do. They cannot expect to receive an extra layer of protection from the consequences of their actions once they get their badges.

“There is no credibility at all when police officers omit (violent) information in police documents. There is only further strain in the relationship between officers and African-American communities.” said Aaron Ammons, an activist for the last 15 years in C-U and Urbana city council member.

Theoretically, police officers are only supposed to appear fearsome to those who are guilty.

But if the public perceives law enforcers without a sense of trust or faith in their role for peace, society is plagued with frustration from a relationship that disengages police officers with the rest of the world.

Since a minority community is actively voicing their position on the issue, and feels that they have not been heard by the public officials in their pleas for them to make appropriate adjustments, it is especially crucial that their stories are perceived and addressed.

State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-105, and Aaron Ammons’ wife, noted in her speech that further problems with the police can be addressed by “funding and requiring comprehensive and continued training for police officers on de-escalation and conflict resolution, ending the use of military grade technology and tactics in community-based policing and prosecuting police officers that committed acts of violence against community members outside the bounds and requirements of ensuring public safety.”

Police brutality has been a heated topic across the nation more so now than ever before. The students at the University should recognize that such an issue can, and has, taken place in the local community of Champaign-Urbana.

The solution that Champaign police find for Rush’s alleged actions will determine the future of the local dispute concerning the abuse of authority.

Hopefully, it will function as a precedent case that ends such conflicts.

Da Yeon is a sophomore in ACES.

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