Organizers made it happen
Elmhurst resident Mat Shiley was one of the organizers of Saturday’s peaceful protest at Wilder Park. His comments are reflected in the story ‘Meet the protestors’ in this issue of the Independent.

Staff report

On Saturday, June 13, a peaceful protest was planned and staged in Elmhurst’s Wilder Park (see related story elsewhere in this issue). Staff of the Elmhurst Independent were on hand to talk one-on-one with some of the protestors and organizers.

One of the organizers of Saturday’s event was Mat Shiley. He said people in predominantly white communities such as Elmhurst can’t stay silent and continue living their lives like they normally do, given the killing of George Floyd and the protests that have occurred in Chicago, the suburbs and across the country.

“Anti-racism needs to be an essential focus in communities everywhere, especially ones like Elmhurst,” the Elmhurst resident said. “I think it’s really important for everyone to be aware and prioritize the fact that there is no collective liberation without black liberation, so that’s why we need communities everywhere to prioritize anti-racism in their everyday life.”

Mat was joined at the protest by his mother, Terri Shiley, who also lives in Elmhurst.

“It’s an important topic,” she said. “I think that if you’d asked me five years ago, my opinion changed. My son is also helping, and he’s very passionate about social justice.” 

Villa Park resident speaks up

Jessica Matasek, a Villa Park resident, participated in the protest because, she said, “People shouldn’t have to fear for their life just because of their skin color, and also because there have been countless [online] hashtags and no changes have been made in what standards police are held to.” 

When asked what reforms she would like to see implemented—either by police departments, society in general, or at the state or national level–Matasek replied, “Definitely more de-escalation training (for police), and basically all the reforms that have been trending on social media and that have already been implemented in some cities. But also banning tear gas and rubber bullets to break up crowds, especially when they’re nonviolent.”

Responding to the same question, Terri Shiley said, “I have a college age student (her son, Mat) who realized once he went off to college and was learning about social justice, how little he learned about black culture in our schools growing up. So, one of the first things I’d like to see is that we bring that [to] the forefront of all of our schools. It starts in middle school when you’re learning all of the government stuff, so I think at that level, it’s important. I think at a state level, we need to be looking at police reform.”

Chauvin can still receive pension benefits

Referring to Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer now charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, Terri said, “There are people who do really bad things, get in trouble for it, go to jail for it, and then, are still collecting police pensions and that’s not right.”

Chauvin is eligible to receive pension benefits as a former employee because he’s met length-of-service requirements. The Minnesota Public Employees Retirement Association said in a statement that pension payments are not affected by criminal charges or convictions. 

Mat said that speaking for himself as a white organizer, and for the collective organization of volunteers who helped arrange Saturday’s protest who are non-black, they are working to “amplify the voices of the black community at times like this.”

“I will not be speaking for the black community at all,” Mat said. “However, I will say that we are echoing the calls for change that are outlined by [the] Black Lives Matter Global (Network). And that is for the defunding of police, transformative justice, and divesting from police force(s) and investing into community organizations for greater change.”

Local reforms sought as well

“In terms of local reform, we’re looking particularly at the [Elmhurst] City Council. The mayor (Steve Morley) has a unique opportunity to appoint a few aldermen and there is at least one person of color who is applying right now that gives him a unique opportunity to appoint. So, we are calling for the mayor to reopen that application process, and to take more initiative in making anti-racism voices heard in our City Council through a commission—an anti-racist commission—and also by appointing more people of color to (the) City Council. That’s one really local thing we’re trying to do in terms of a more general approach we’re trying to amplify—not speak on behalf of.”

Patricia Genster, from Hoffman Estates, said she disagrees with the statement “defund the police.” However, she said she does want to see national reforms put in place to curb police corruption and unnecessary violence.

“I would like to see them become licensed,” she said. “I think police need to be licensed. I do think they need to be funded. We need to have a law and order system, but it needs to be reformed completely. We need to look at rates of incarceration; it’s very systematically disproportionate to offenders. That’s really the biggest thing.”

Lily Morgan and Mike Sandrolini contributed to this report.


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