The protests surrounding the death of a Ferguson, Missouri man have once again made their way to Central Illinois.
Around 25 people marched on the U.S. Attorney's Office in downtown Peoria on Tuesday to express outrage over the death of Michael Brown, who was shot by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. The 18-year-old Brown was unarmed when the cop opened fire on him, an act that sparked intense, and sometimes violent, protests in the St. Louis suburb.
The protestors in Peoria handed over a letter that included a list of demands to the U.S. Attorney's Office with hopes that it would find its way to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
"We want some kind of movement on the officer who shot Mike Brown, more transparency in the investigation," said Sonny Garcia, who riled up the crowd with chants like, "Hands up, don't shoot!"
When news of the incident first broke, Brown was hailed as a "gentle giant," a young man who was doing nothing more than walking down the street when he was confronted by police. However, the initial image of Brown was somewhat tarnished after it came out that he was a suspect in a strong-arm robbery the same day he was shot in the street. Some witnesses have also said Brown was involved in a physical scuffle with the officer who shot him. Garcia said nothing Brown was accused of is relevant in the shooting that ended his life.
"What happened on the streets is a police officer shot an unarmed, young black male," Garcia said.
The group also called for a change in how minorities are treated altogether by law enforcement and other government officials. Garcia claimed high infant mortality rates, incarceration rates, and unemployment rates for minorities serve as evidence of a "planned, structured system" to keep minorities "disenfranchised and hopeless."
"The murder and devaluation of black and brown lives must stop," Garcia said.
There was some brief tension as the group gathered in front of One Technology Plaza, the building on Fulton Street that houses the U.S. Attorney's Office. The building manager first asked the group to move away from the doors, a request that went unheeded. As the protestors started to enter the building, another person nearby told them they had to stay outside. Likewise, that direction was ignored.
Eventually, some of the protestors were able to sign-in and make their way upstairs to the office, where they handed their letter to a security guard, who said she would turn it over to U.S. Attorney officials. A brief prayer was held back downstairs in the lobby, and the group left without much more ado. A handful of police officers stood in front and inside of the building as the protestors walked away.
The rally in Peoria was one of several happening around the country. Protest leaders hope the coordinated, widespread effort will help spur government officials into action soon.