Anger, protests and peace in memory of George Floyd in Huntley, Woodstock

'It all begins with policy change,' one protester says

George Floyd.

It’s the name protesters have chanted throughout the nation’s streets and demanded their communities say out loud.

On Sunday, a crowd of demonstrators in the historic Woodstock Square shouted Floyd’s name alongside cries for justice. Earlier in the day, protesters at Huntley’s Deicke Park wrote Floyd’s name in black Sharpie on protest signs reading “I can’t breathe” and “Racism is a pandemic.” The 46-year-old black man died while in police custody after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds – two minutes and 53 seconds of which continued after Floyd was unresponsive.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, faces third-degree murder and manslaughter charges in connection with Floyd’s death, which sparked outrage and protests throughout the nation.

“It all begins with policy change,” Crystal Lake resident Luis Aguilar said. “We all should recognize the larger picture here.”

Aguilar was one of about 30 people who gathered for Huntley’s protest, organized in part by Lisa Arvanites, of McHenry County’s chapter of the National Organization for Women. Unlike protests launched in larger cities such as Chicago, there was no police presence outside Huntley’s protest Sunday. Local law enforcement was made aware of the demonstration, however, Arvanites said, adding that she didn’t organize the event to protest local police.

“We’re out here in the community today to give a voice to people in Huntley and McHenry County who are aching to be part of the national dialogue regarding racism and the discrimination against black Americans, and the brutalization through a system of oppression that needs to be dismantled,” Arvanites said.

Sonja Bozic, an 18-year-old Woodstock resident, helped organize the Woodstock protest with friend Danny Cervantes, who first pitched the idea.

“I see a lot of people that I know that aren’t here today. That have white skin and that have privilege and that are not here today to walk, to simply walk in peace for black people in America, and it hurts me so much to see that,” Bozic said.

Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager also made an appearance at the march Sunday, where he thanked protesters for attending.

“We know that the richness of the fabric of our society here in the city of Woodstock comes from our diversity. The differences we share – not the similarities,” Sager said. “If we all had exactly the same thoughts, the same ideas, the same perspectives, we would not be able to grow. We would not be able to improve ourselves as a community.”

The protest drew a sizable crowd, but some like Jazmine, a protester who did not wish to give her last name, said there’s more work to be done. Recounting her own experiences with local police as well as her high school and college classmates, Jazmine was skeptical that McHenry County’s residents are willing to change.

“This whole county has been racist for years ... and literally this just turned into an ‘All Lives Matter’ rally. We said ‘Thank the cops, thank the mayor, everybody’s doing a great job,’ but that’s not true,” she said.

The protest remained peaceful throughout the evening, as Woodstock police officers posted throughout the square helped direct traffic.

Marching in step with a crowd of protesters dressed in all black, 23-year-old Javaris Riley’s sign asked a question: Am I next?

Riley, who is black, said he grew up in Chicago and understands the threat of police brutality.

“Just because I go outside and I’m feared doesn’t mean that I’m someone who’s supposed to be feared,” Riley said. “I want to be equal just like everyone else.”

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