Rockford, Illinois News

Anti-police protester plans to attend local ‘Back the Blue’ rally

ROCKFORD –  A spokesperson for a a local group that’s calling for the the abolition of police is organizing a protest of the “Back the Blue”rally planned for this Saturday.

Leslie Rolfe, a leading voice of Rockford Youth Activism, now Rockford Youth Abolitionists, said in a Facebook video Monday that anyone against police brutality should should up and protest the Aug. 1 rally, scheduled for 10 a.m., at the Winnebago County Justice Center.

Back the Blue is organized by conservative political action committee, Concerned Citizens for America.

The PAC organized the rally to show support for officers who risk their lives doing dangerous work in uncertain times. To Rolfe, local police aren’t worthy of that support.

“There’s a long history you can go through to see excessive-force complaints, racial-discrimination complaints and all types of stuff with the Rockford Police Department,” Rolfe said.

Rolfe has been particularly vocal about the arrests of more than a dozen people May 30 outside Police District 1 during a police brutality protest sparked by the murder of George Floyd. The arrests were made after a large window was broken, signs were torn down and a squad car was damaged.

According to video footage circulating on social media, some of the people arrested were pulled out of a car by officers. Some were struck with batons. Their charges range from misdemeanors like resisting arrest to felonies such as aggravated  battery of a police officer.

In response to the arrests, local protesters have been calling on authorities, including Mayor Tom McNamara and Police Dan O’Shea, to drop the charges. Rolfe says because that has not happened, Saturday’s rally deserves to be protested.

“There are videos you can find of the Rockford Police Department assaulting people, violating people’s rights, and unlawfully arresting people,” Rolfe said. “It ain’t nothing to support about that. It’s nothing to give back into that.”

Rolfe, organizer of protests that have blocked traffic outside City Market, said the disruption will continue until leaders address what occurred at District 1 two months ago.

Concerned Citizens for America said not only are police battling lawlessness, there are other forces at work.

“We support all the men and women who serve in law enforcement and the amazing, vital, and dangerous work they do to protect our communities from lawlessness and evil,” the PAC said in a release.  “Now is the time to raise our voices and been seen standing not only in support of law enforcement, but opposed to forces at work who demonize all who serve to protect us, our county, and its Constitution.”

Rolfe said officers were not protecting the community on May 30, and that some protesters have since been targeted. One of those targets, he said, was Patrick “Sage” Gettings, a local resident who was initially charged with assaulting an officer, later to have the charges dropped after dash-cam footage showed the officer was the alleged aggressor.

Sage, someone (who) got pulled over driving and a police officer assaulted that person who was driving,” he said. “And when we’ve been out protesting, police officers have made unauthorized, unlegal (sic) and unethical contact with people who are out here at these protests. They are the oppressors.”

Back the Blue organizers have a different message. The group says police are being demonized–in the streets and by media, who “have crafted a faux narrative of systemic racism to provide cover for their violent pawns uses to incite terror in their attempt to fundamentally change this nation from a God-fearing nation that protects our natural rights and focuses on individual responsibility, into an Orwellian society.”

Scheduled speakers at Saturday’s Back the Blue events include Illinois Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park), who’s also a detective; and former FBI agent Jim Sacia, who spent 11 years in the Illinois House of  Representatives.

“Until these good cops they keep talking about start bringing these bad cops to the table and making them answer for their actions, there ain’t nothing to support,” Rolfe said. “Anyone who ever uttered the phrase, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ put on a T-shirt that says Black Lives Matter, or put on a hat that says Black Lives Matter and is not going to be out opposing what these people are protesting at this rally or what these people are speaking about at this rally, they’re a hypocrite.”

An investigation into whether police officers used excessive force May 30 is ongoing. Authorities recently called on the public to submit video of the event as part of the probe.

Without a judge’s ruling, Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross’s office is the only local authority with the power to dismiss the cases against those facing charges in connection with the May 30 protests.



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