Friday, June 5, 2020

Surprise Surprise! George Floyd et al Ignite McHenry County

The call for the youth-led march and rally on Woodstock Square. 400 or more showed up.

Who would have thought that the murder by police of a Black man in a distant city would touch off more than a week of sustained and militant action by hundreds of people in McHenry County, Illinois?  That’s right, the suburban/exurban/rural county in the northwest boonies of the Chicago metropolitan area which was 90.1% white by the 2010 Census and until recently an unassailable conservative Republican bastion has been swept up in a national Black Lives Matter movement that has seen demonstrations in more 450 cities and towns across the United States.
Of course since 2010 the Latino community has grown and there has even been a modest influx of African Americans but my guess is the 2020 Census will show only about 2% Black residents. 
Activism of all sorts has been on the rise since the election of Donald Trump including Women’s March events, March for Our Lives and National School Walk-out anti-gun violence actions, March for Science and climate change, immigration justice rallies, and LBGBQ Pride events each of which have turned out hundreds.  Meanwhile grass roots progressive Democrats have changed the political landscape carrying the county for Barack Obama, Senator Tammy Duckworth, and Representative Lauren Underwood.
A lot of that activity was organized by a small overlapping core of activists, many of the women and/or gray haired elders like the Old Man who pens this blog.
But the energy and leadership behind the current wave of protest has been entirely different—young people under the age of 25 most of whom have had no relationship with existing organizations.  Inspired by the nation-wide protests, the local movement was spontaneous and without either charismatic figure head leadership or organizational backing.  Protests in different towns have been organized independently.  Those taking the lead include Black and Latino high school and college students but also white youth allies.  They also include significant numbers of LGBTQ and gender queer young people showing that the movement has a clear understanding of intersectionality.

A portion of the crowd in Woodstock on Sunday listen to speakers before taking off on a march around the Square.
Crowds at marches and rallies in Huntley, Woodstock, McHenry, Crystal Lake, and Harvard have included up to 600+ participants, 80-90% young and reflecting the local demographics mostly white.  Geezers like me who have turned out have been happy to simple foot soldiers in the struggle taking our cues from collective youth leadership.  All of the actions have been entirely peaceful.
The first action I participated was in Woodstock on Sunday May 31.  There were well over 400 in attendance—enough to completely and continuously surround the Square in an angry and determined but entirely peaceful march. Better yet more than 85% of the marchers were under 25. Many geezers my age stayed home due to health concerns. At 71 years old, I have some of those too and I got winded after three laps around the square. Most of the young folks kept up the march for at least an hour and a half. My granddaughter Mathilda was born earlier that day and I felt I owed it to her to leave her with a better and more just world than the dangerous crappy one into which she was just born.

Protesters in Crystal Lake lay face down with hands behind their backs in front of the City Hall.Police Headquarters.
Yesterday afternoon I was at an even larger event that began in Crystal Lake’s Veterans Acres Park and marched several blocks to the City Hall/Police Department and lay down silently on our stomachs for the nine minutes that George Floyd had a cop’s knee on his neck. Safe to say Crystal Lake had never seen anything like that.

A separate youth led group is planning two days of   Crystal Lake Protests For Black Lives  today, June 5 and tomorrow June 6 both beginning at 11 am at the five way intersection of Crystal Lake Road, Walkup Road, and Grant Street near The Cottage pub and will participate in the first civil disobedience in the McHenry County protests—intermittent occupation of the streetsCrystal Lake Police are not expected to take action against the protestors.  The group will then march to the Gazebo by the Metra Station on Woodstock Street for a short rally.

Details on Saturday’s march through Crystal Lake’s downtown and rally at the Gazebo will be announced later.  Both days rally speakers will be exclusively Black and other minorities to lift up often unheard voices.
On Monday, June 8 McHenry County Faith Leaders are planning a George Floyd Memorial Service at 7pm at churches across the county.  The faithful will gather in the Church parking lots or on the grounds observing safe social distancing for services to coincide with the public viewing at The Fountain of Praise Church in Houston, Texas where Floyd was an active member before moving to Minneapolis.  There will be prayers and eight minutes of silence in memory of Floyd and other victims of racial oppression.  The congregations will acknowledge their own privilege and repudiate the systematic racism embedded in their churches. Check with your own church to see if it is participating. 

McHenry County Faith Leaders plan George Floyd Memorial Services at churches in McHenry County.
The Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry will host one of the memorial services on its grounds.
The is so much going on now in McHenry County that it entirely possible  that other local actions have been planned that I don’t yet know about.  Keep your eyes peeled for them.
And thanks for the new generation showing us all the way.  They/we/I are not giving up!

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear! Thanks for writing this. Keep up the good fight.