By Hannah Meisel
Activists in Champaign-Urbana rallied Tuesday in solidarity with those in Ferguson, Missouri. Citizens see parallels between the two areas, with regard to the relationship between law enforcement and the black community.
It's been five years since 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington was shot and killed by a Champaign Police Officer on a Friday afternoon in October.
The teen's death was eventually ruled anaccident, but to longtime area residents, looking at Ferguson is like looking into a mirror--another black teen dead by the gun of a white officer.
Monday's decision by a grand jury to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson hits home for Champaign resident Martel Miller. Miller's son, Calvin, was arrested by Champaign Police for erratic driving three years ago. Miller admits his son was in the wrong, but says police used excessive force on him.
"The first time I ever saw Calvin without a smile was the day I picked him up from jail," he said. "He had a black eye, a hurt ankle, and he told me, 'Daddy, they beat me for nothing. I did do wrong, but I did everything they told me to do, and they handcuffed me and they beat me.'"
Miller was one of the 60 gathered outside the Champaign County Courthouse in a solidarity rally Tuesday, that eventually blocked off traffic for one city block.
It was a far calmer scene in Urbana than protests that turned to riots in Ferguson Monday. But rally leader Gus Wood, president of the U of I's Graduate Employees Organization, says he sympathizes with those around Ferguson whose tempers have boiled over.
"It was a planned rebellion against an unjustice of the murder of a member of their community," he said. "That's why these people are so angry that they're disillusioned that they believed in a system that would take away something that they thought would happen."
Wood is referring to the decision a grand jury came to Monday.
The ralliers also chanted for change within the Champaign and Urbana police departments, and urged the county to not build another jail in the area.