Local leaders weigh in on voting to promote change amid protests

Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 3:17 PM CDT
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"All the young people, vote! I bet you we tip the scales," one protester shouted at Tuesday evening's protest in Haskell Park. "We don't want you to make these promises because of your elections, we don't want that. We want change!"

Protesters have several messages, but one of them is to vote to achieve systemic change.

"It is a duty as much as breathing," says Rockford's Fifth Ward alderperson Venita Hervey. She acknowledges voter turnout across the stateline is low, and says in her ward nearly 6,000 people are eligible to vote, but estimates only 200 showed out in the last election cycle.

"It is disheartening, pathetic, shameful all of those things," says Hervey. "And I hear people say sometimes 'what difference does it make? My vote doesn't count.' Well if you don't vote it absolutely doesn't count. It's worse than zero."

She doesn't believe in blaming the youth, but wants to encourage them, saying they are the change that will move forward. However, she and the protesters agree it's more than just Republican or Democrat.

"Something that's always disturbed me about African Americans is that we give the democratic party 95 percent of our vote, and we demand nothing in return. We have no platform," she says. And she's also hopeful the youth will be encouraged to join the police force to promote diversity.

In the meantime, Hervey says she will go out into the community this year to ensure members are signed up to vote. She also wants to help residents get a state ID to be eligible. She acknowledges the hurt the world is feeling currently.

"Use that pain to drive forward, use that pain for systemic change, in all of our institutions. In our elected officials, in our schooling."

Rhonda Greer Robinson, the president of the local NAACP says that civil, political participation is the way to move forward. She says to research candidates, and find people who will take action on your beliefs.

"I think that real conversation needs to be out there, why is it important to vote," Robinson questions. "Look what we're going through right now."