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Here’s why some Chicagoans have joined protests following the death of George Floyd

Here’s how 8-year-old Erik Miles Jr. of Auburn Gresham put it: ‘Black people shouldn’t be killed. And people that have lives should keep their lives until it’s time for them to go.’

Erik Miles Jr., 8, and his dad Erik Miles Sr. after a demonstration on West 79th Street and South Racine Avenue in Auburn Gresham on Thursday.
Erik Miles Jr., 8, and his dad Erik Miles Sr. after a demonstration on West 79th Street and South Racine Avenue in Auburn Gresham on Thursday.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Protests have swept Chicago and the nation after a video showed George Floyd killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer who pressed a knee into the African American man’s neck for eight minutes while taking him into custody in Minnesota.

At protests the past few days, we asked Chicagoans to talk about why they were taking part and what they want to see change:

Erik Miles, 8, Auburn Gresham

“Black people shouldn’t be killed,” said Erik, standing with his father Erik Miles Sr. “And people that have lives should keep their lives until it’s time for them to go.”

Erik Miles Sr., 42, Auburn Gresham

“Too many times, the police have gotten away with slaps on the wrist for doing heinous crimes. Laquan McDonald? Slap on the wrist. Sandra Bland? Slap on the wrist, nothing really happened. Hopefully something comes of this. I hate for the situation that happened to cause this. But justice needs to happen.”

Doris Hernandez, 62, who joined a group of Latina and African American mothers to call for peace Friday. They gathered near a mural depicting civil rights leaders the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez in Little Village.
Doris Hernandez, 62, who joined a group of Latina and African American mothers to call for peace Friday. They gathered near a mural depicting civil rights leaders the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez in Little Village.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Doris Hernandez, 62, Little Village

[Speaking in Spanish, translated here] “We don’t want African Americans to see us as enemies. We aren’t enemies. We are brothers. We have black genes in our blood. Why are we going to separate ourselves because of something so irrelevant like the color of our skin? We need love, justice and peace at the same time. Peace is a consequence of justice and love.”

Kimberly Davis, who took part in a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through her Southwest Side neighborhood.
Kimberly Davis, who took part in a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through her Southwest Side neighborhood.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Kimberly Davis, 45, Garfield Ridge

“This is something that affects all of us, no matter what color you are. The injustice has been going on for a long time, especially for black people as far as police are concerned. It has continued on, and I never went out and got involved. I did other things to give back, but this time it just really hit home to see those videos and how George Floyd died. And it’s affected me every day. I pray something changes this time around. It’s worldwide now. I don’t remember it ever being this loud.”

Rodney Wilson wanted to show his younger brothers, ages 15 and 17, how to have their voices heard. He had attended protests in the Loop that denounced the death of George Floyd but felt that clashes there with the police made them unsafe. So he brought his brothers to a demonstration Thursday on West 79th Street and South Racine Avenue in Auburn Gresham.
Rodney Wilson wanted to show his younger brothers, ages 15 and 17, how to have their voices heard. He had attended protests in the Loop that denounced the death of George Floyd but felt that clashes there with the police made them unsafe. So he brought his brothers to a demonstration Thursday on West 79th Street and South Racine Avenue in Auburn Gresham.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Rodney Wilson, 23, Roseland

“It was just nice to get out here to be in a peaceful protest, not have to run from the police because they are trying to arrest you for no good reason other than you being out here. It’s not hard at all: Treat others like you would want to be treated. Don’t kill my brothers, like you wouldn’t want me to kill your brothers.”

Dave Ruiz at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through his Garfield Ridge neighborhood on the Southwest Side.
Dave Ruiz at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through his Garfield Ridge neighborhood on the Southwest Side.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Dave Ruiz, 18, Garfield Ridge

“George Floyd’s killing was just the straw that broke my back. All my life, I’ve endured harassment and racism, and every incident was like a tiny pebble that added to the frustration I was feeling — about the fact that reforms were failing, our police departments were failing, and voices like mine weren’t being heard. This moment is different. You see the galvanization taking hold of our country. But I fear it still won’t be enough. I hope this isn’t another ‘almost.’ “

Phillip Hunter, who took part in a demonstration Thursday in Auburn Gresham, says he and his peers carry a heavier responsibility than past generations, dealing with police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic. He plans to attend Carthage College in Wisconsin to study biology and wants to become a doctor.
Phillip Hunter, who took part in a demonstration Thursday in Auburn Gresham, says he and his peers carry a heavier responsibility than past generations, dealing with police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic. He plans to attend Carthage College in Wisconsin to study biology and wants to become a doctor.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Phillip Hunter, 17, recent De La Salle Institute grad

“I think people are fed up with America killing our brothers in the African American community. Now, it’s time for us to speak up. I really emphasize for people to really speak up and speak out on injustice and really speak for peace, justice and love for African Americans and for everyone in the world.”

Crystal Gonzalez, who was part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration Thursday on the Southwest Side.
Crystal Gonzalez, who was part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration Thursday on the Southwest Side.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Crystal Gonzalez, 31, Garfield Ridge

“People of color shouldn’t feel like, ‘That’s a part of town I can’t come by.’ Maybe we can take a small step in the right direction of more peace and just more friendliness. The Occupy Wall Street movement was what got my attention when I was younger and made me realize I needed to pay attention to politics and gave me the confidence to attend protests. I hope this means real change. I can only hope, and I’m willing to do my part.”

Corey Griffin (left) and his twin brother Chris Griffin after a demonstration Thursday in Auburn Gresham.
Corey Griffin (left), with his twin brother Chris Griffin after a demonstration Thursday in Auburn Gresham, won’t ever forget the times he’s been pulled over by the police and how he felt as a police car pulled up behind him. His brother wants to see African American leaders do more to bring the community together.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Corey Griffin, 36, Homewood

“You might have your seatbelt on, and your papers might be straight, but you still get nervous just for the fear of something happening. It’s not just in Chicago, it’s not just in Detroit or L.A. or whatever. It’s all over. And it’s always happening.”

Chris Griffin, 36, Homewood (Corey Griffin’s twin)

“We can be positive and still be proud to be black and not just tear the city up.”

Emilia Morales at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through her Sothwest Side Garfield Ridge neighborhood.
Emilia Morales at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through her Sothwest Side Garfield Ridge neighborhood.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Emilia Morales, 17, Garfield Ridge

“I feel confident change is coming. Something has to change. I understand people who say ‘blue lives matter,’ and I know their job is hard. But police are paid to put their lives on the line. Black people never had a choice, and their lives are on the line every day.”

Edward Pledger at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday on the Southwest Side.
Edward Pledger at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday on the Southwest Side.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Edward Pledger, 41, Kenwood

“Racism is everywhere. I’ve dealt with it all my life. And to see this type of turnout, that people are willing to step up to say something, it’s a great thing. Unfortunately, I’m not very optimistic that the people who need to change are higher up the food chain. Maybe if they listen to us, finally, they’ll be swayed. This recent wave of protests feels stronger. There’s more heart to it. There’s a lot more diversity, and you can see it. The message is still strong, and this time I feel like the message is stronger because more people are actually paying attention to it.”

Trevon Bosley, after a demonstration Thursday in Auburn Gresham, says the frustration of the COVID-19 pandemic added to the unrest felt across the country over George Floyd’s death.
Trevon Bosley, after a demonstration Thursday in Auburn Gresham, says the frustration of the COVID-19 pandemic added to the unrest felt across the country over George Floyd’s death.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Trevon Bosley, 21, Southern Illinois University student

“Everyone is completely fed up with the treatment that we’ve been receiving. There are more cases out there. And we are not done yet.”

Diana Lash at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday on the Southwest Side.
Diana Lash at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday on the Southwest Side.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Diana Lash, 20, Garfield Ridge

“I think it’s important to protest because we are all equal, and it’s important to be heard. It’s important that we protect each other and speak up for ourselves. What happened wasn’t fair. We all have to be treated the same way.”

James Ramos, after a demonstration on W 79th and South Racine in Auburn Gresham, urges people to find something to dive into and keep working on issues like police brutality and economic development and to help figure out how to support and rebuild communities on the South Side and West Side.
James Ramos, after a demonstration on W 79th and South Racine in Auburn Gresham, urges people to find something to dive into and keep working on issues like police brutality and economic development and to help figure out how to support and rebuild communities on the South Side and West Side.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

James Ramos, 50, Humboldt Park

“We want to make sure that our voices are not silent but that our demands are really clear — and that is to change the systemic behavior of police departments across the country, the systemic behaviors of ourselves as well.”

Dave Robbins at a Black Lives Matter demonstration Thursday in Garfield Ridge.
Dave Robbins at a Black Lives Matter demonstration Thursday in Garfield Ridge.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Dave Robbins, 67, Hyde Park

“When I see these young people doing what they’re doing, I feel optimistic. They have seen what’s going on, and they’re standing up to change it. That’s a great thing. I hope they keep the pressure on the mayor to speed up police reform.”

Bernadette O’Shea and her two daughters Lena and Kamariia at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through their neighborhood on the Southwest Side.
Bernadette O’Shea and her two daughters Lena and Kamariia at a Black Lives Matter rally and march Thursday through their neighborhood on the Southwest Side.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Bernadette O’Shea, 52, Garfield Ridge, with her daughters

“We’ve had some hard conversations about what’s going on in the world. And I think it’s important for them to be part of history. Hopefully, it’s a historical moment right now, where there’s real change and the hard conversations happen.”

Lena O’Shea, 11, Garfield Ridge

“People are saying that black lives matter, and it’s important because it’s going to add history to all the things that have happened to everybody in the world. It kind of makes me sad that they have to protest, but I’m glad they are.”

Kamariia O’Shea, 8, Garfield Ridge

“My mom brought me out to protest, but I wanted to come. It makes me feel upset because we shouldn’t be having to protest like this. Because none of this should’ve happened.”

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.