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10-15 arrested after Saturday protests, officials say out-of-town residents caused violence

(WIFR)
Published: May. 31, 2020 at 2:39 PM CDT
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Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea says Saturday night's protests was turned violent by out of town residents.

Chief O'Shea said roughly 10-15 people were arrested Saturday night, some for throwing rocks and others for looting businesses, which took place until 3-4 a.m. Sunday. He says these numbers are just an estimate and that an official number of arrests and more details on the looting will be released in the coming days.

"For 31 years I've been doing this job and I have always tried to do the right thing and I try and tell my people do the right thing," O'Shea said. "Do we always do the right thing? No, do we make mistakes? 100 percent of the time and we try to hold ourselves accountable."

Chief O'Shea gave credit to the initial protesters, saying it was peaceful and ran an engaging protest.

"We had some people come in from out of town yesterday, they caused some serious problems," O'Shea said. "I can tell you that we know they we're from out of town based on from where they're license plates and other things and people knew who they were and they were a lot of our disrupters."

The protest was supposed to end at 6 p.m. and the police department around 8:45 p.m. told protestors to go home peacefully.

Chief O'Shea said people started leaving the protest, which ended at RPD District 1, around 6:15 p.m. That's when things started to turn violent with some people throwing rocks and water bottles at the windows of the police headquarters, destroying signage out in the yard, and shouting expletives directed at police.

About 4 hours after the protest was supposed to end, around 11 p.m. Saturday was when police fired tear gas into a crowd that was still filled with hundreds of people. This is also when the SWAT unit was put into use.

Chief O’Shea said that the death of George Floyd “sickened” him and that former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin should be charged with murder.

"I understand the trauma, I understand that everyone's hurt, I understood that George Floyd couldn't breathe, but we can, we can breathe through this," Rockford NAACP President Rhonda Greer Robinson said.

He also condemned the looting and violence overnight, citing the already tough times during the COVID-19 crisis.

Chief O'Shea said the looting and vandalism to businesses goes against everything Rockford and the community is.

"Rockford has to fight for everything it has. Everyone fights for what they got and they work their way up," said O'Shea.

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At a press conference Sunday morning, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara had a strong message to the community on regarding rejecting violence and coming together.

Mayor McNamara addressed Saturday's protests saying: "You gathered for your voices can be heard and the city of Rockford hears your voices." He also said Sunday's protest isn't an isolated incident.

“I want people to realize that I can’t stand and I don’t condone rioting and looting, but I think we also have to understand that this is just a symptom,” McNamara said. “We are going to continue to repeat this cycle if we don’t recognize the reason for the anger and the frustration, which is real."

"If you want to make changes, come to the table," said Rhonda Greer Robinson, the president of the NAACP in Rockford. "We have to come together as a community."

Virgil Hobson of 100 Strong, a non-profit organization based in Rockford, echoed the same sentiments as McNamara and Robinson on Sunday saying: "We're not just 100 Strong, we're 815 Strong."

The mayor ended the press conference Sunday morning with a message of unity for the city: "Your voices were heard, now let's act together."