“No time for hate in Crystal Lake” could be heard throughout the city’s downtown area Friday as Black Lives Matter protesters intermittently blocked traffic in the area of Walkup Road and Crystal Lake Avenue.
About five minutes into the protest, which organizers intended to be peaceful, a driver tried to cross through the intersection while protesters were in the road. Crystal Lake police officers quickly stepped in and ushered the car into a nearby parking lot. No one was injured, and the driver likely will be cited, officers said.
One of the protest’s organizers, Jesse Scherb, said the situation made them feel “disappointed in [their] community.”
“The fact that people care more about having clear roads than have people safe, and the fact that he was willing to barrel through a bunch of humans, it made me really upset, and I care a lot about this community,” Scherb said.
Friday’s protest marked the sixth day of demonstrations protesting the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man killed in Minneapolis.
The two-day peaceful protest began at 11 a.m. Friday, when people gathered at the intersection of Crystal Lake and North Walkup avenues behind The Cottage in Crystal Lake.
Every 20 minutes, protesters moved from the sidewalks to the crosswalks and knelt for seven minutes as a tribute to the amount of the time Floyd spent pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is white.
“People are blocking traffic because it makes the people in their cars feel powerless to the situation that they’re in, and that forces them to be put in the same mindset as people of color when they’re driving or black people when they’re walking down the street,” Scherb said.
After the protest, the group returned to the Depot Park gazebo, where attendees shared their personal encounters with racism and other prejudices.
Scherb and fellow protest organizers Noah Middaugh, DC Smith and Jamie Smuda asked attendees to remain on public property, wear a mask and refrain from touching vehicles.
Middaugh, who also started a local anti-racism book club, said it is “incumbent on us to educate ourselves.”
“Anti-racism predicates action,” Middaugh said. “That action can look like educating yourself, showing up to protests, it can look like voting, all of these things. But the main thing we want to get across here is that you have to be proactive with policies, with our general mindset, with our responsibility on these issues.”
Several businesses in the downtown area were boarded up before the protest began, although the demonstration was contained to the intersection and Depot Park.
“I feel like people have a justified reason to be scared at the end of the day because of the looting and rioting that is going on, but I feel like it’s more of a show of how the community is uneducated in really what we’re trying to do,” Smith said.
The Crystal Lake Police Department addressed the protest on its Facebook page Thursday.
“There have been a number of inquiries about a potential protest in Crystal Lake planned for June 5 and June 6, 2020,” according to the post. “Earlier this week we were notified about a group wanting to protest/gathering in honor of George Floyd. They asked to meet with the Crystal Lake Police Department to ensure they had a peaceful event.
“This group plans to meet on the above listed dates at 11:30 a.m. [at] Crystal Lake Avenue and Walkup. [The] Crystal Lake Police Department anticipates nothing but a peaceful event regarding the unjust death of George Floyd. Police are prepared in the event any individuals or groups choose to act in a way not in accordance with the law.”
In response to a statement Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black issued earlier in the week, Middaugh created a list of demands aimed at improving police transparency.
The list identifies “inconsistencies between the 10 Shared Principals and what is currently publicly available knowledge” about Crystal Lake police operations.
Moving forward, protesters requested that the police department implement body cameras and publicly post information about officers’ de-escalation training, among other suggestions.
“Specifically, the CLPD does not have any of their internal department rules, accountability structures or training programs publicly published on its website,” Middaugh wrote. “This is an accountability and transparency issue, which are two values explicitly highlighted in the 10 Shared Principals.”
The demonstration will continue Saturday, when protesters are expected to march to the Crystal Lake Municipal Building.
Floyd’s death sparked outrage and protests throughout the nation. McHenry County’s demonstrations so far have remained peaceful despite looting and vandalism occurring in other suburban Chicago cities.
“It’s a big statement because so many people are upset about it,” Smith said. “People are getting involved and saying like, ‘Oh my gosh, someone’s blocking traffic. Oh my gosh, why is this something that we have to deal with? Why am I obligated when I’m not black?’ At the end of the day, this movement affects us all.”