By Gavin Good
Hundreds of protestors marched from the Champaign Police Department to the Alma Mater statue near the University of Illinois Quad on Friday evening in the “Enough is enough” protest, walking down First Street and turning down Green Street.
Organized by members of the Champaign County Antiracist Coalition, a group that has put together several area protests over the summer, the protest gathered around the university landmark, with leaders speaking as protestors hung four large signs on the statue.
The foremost sign, which protestors hung between the statue’s arms, read, “To thy liberated children of the future, those of the past seek revolution.”
Another one of the signs on the Alma Mater read, “since when did Black lives become a political statement?
Drake Materre, one of the organizers with the CCARC, said the sign played off of the Alma Mater’s inscription, which reads, “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings.”
The protest, as described on the group’s Instagram page, was “in support of protecting Black lives, amplifying Black voices, and combating gun violence in the Black community.”
Materre said the group wants the University of Illinois to take a more active and direct role in pushing reforms for police and ending systemic racism in the Champaign-Urbana community.
“The university actually has power, the political power and money, to actually change something,” Materre said.
Protestors chanted, “Show me what community looks like, this is what community looks like!” and “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police!” as they moved toward Campustown on First Street.
Dozens of people were visible watching the protest from their apartments along First and Green, while attendees at the Red Lion — seated at outdoor tables — applauded as the protest passed by. Multiple people joined in as the protest progressed toward Alma Mater, where Materre and other organizers spoke for about 10 minutes.
Materre, who is also a member of registered student organization Black Students for Revolution, said that one of the protest’s aims was to get students involved in advocating for equal rights and for the University of Illinois to use its influence to help.
“My main focus this summer was — as a member of member of Black Students for Revolution — we’ve done a lot of organizing on campus since freshman year — was branching out into the community,” Materre said. “The whole idea is to get the students more involved and get them off campus.”
“It’s just understanding that the need for the students who actually have real power and a political voice to get involved off-campus,” Materre said. “That was just like their welcome, like, ‘Welcome to U of I, this is the Antiracist Coalition. If y’all are trying to get involved, then let’s go.’”
The Champaign County Anti-Racist Coalition has ten core demands, some of which include defunding the police and giving the community the power to review complaints and fire officers, the removal of police from schools, no jail expansion and safe and affordable housing for all.
The group, which has also collaborated with the Black Lives Matter movement’s Champaign-Urbana chapter, Paign to Peace, and Healing Every Revolutionary’s Champaign-Urbana chapter, plans more protests in the coming months, though organizers recommended every attendee quarantine after attending the protest due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re in the process of really taking over, not taking over like in the case that scares people, but really taking over in terms of really spreading our voices, spreading our message,” Materre said.
Overall, he hopes that support for the CCARC will grow steadily as more and more students and area residents become aware of its efforts, and that ultimately the group can translate that into meaningful changes on a community level.
“This is a new movement, this is a new day and age,” Materre said. “This is a new era.”