Families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and Alvin Cole speak at Grant Park rally to urge people to vote

Kelli Smith and Javonte Anderson, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read

CHICAGO — Greeted by a standing ovation and chants of “say her name,” Breonna Taylor’s mother and the families of other people of color shot or killed by police gathered Thursday for a rally in Grant Park to urge people to vote and “get the change we need.”

“A lot of days it feels like it’s us against them,” said Tamika Palmer, whose 26-year-old daughter was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers during a botched raid on her apartment in March.

“We’ve been protesting, we’ve been arguing, we’ve been crying in court,” she told the audience of about 40 people. “But unless we vote, we will not get the change we need.”

Also speaking was Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who died after a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

“They’re trying to stop us, but standing together they can’t stop us,” he said. “Silence is violence. If you don’t vote, you’re leaving your future in someone else’s hands.”

Also at the rally were the families of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old man left partly paralyzed after a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot him in the back; Eric Garner, who was killed in New York in 2014 after an officer placed him in a chokehold; Jay Anderson, a 25-year-old shot six times and killed in 2016 by a police officer in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; and Alvin Cole, a 17-year-old also shot dead by a police officer in Wauwatosa.

Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., said the family has petitioned the United Nations and plans to go to the steps of Congress next to “change laws” and “change the world.”

“We came here to Chicago to show unity of the families,” Blake said, raising his voice. “We came here to tell the world that we will not stop.

“I should not have to explain to you that every Black face that you see that walks down the street is a part of humanity,” he added. “And we stand united, and I stand on that, and I will not stop.”

Cole’s mother, Tracy, said she remains frightened of the police since the confrontation earlier this year. There won’t be peace until “we get justice in Wauwatosa,” she said as the crowd chanted “no justice, no peace.”

“They tried to shut me up, but it’s not going to happen,” she said. “I feel violated. Today I do not trust no cops. Cops supposed to be friendly, but I don’t trust anyone.”

Garner’s son, Eric Garner Jr., said people are angry for “very good reasons” because injustice continues to happen. “We are working day and night to ensure justice is served,” Garner said.

Earlier, recorded remarks by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Democratic candidate for vice president, Kamala Harris, were played to those gathered in the park.

“No one can truly appreciate the pain that you have experienced and the journey of grief you are moving through,” Lightfoot said, addressing the families. “But I want you to know that we understand and we are standing with you.”

Harris called for an end to cash bails and private prisons and for the initiation of a national police oversight committee, saying she and her running mate, presidential candidate Joe Biden, are committed to “rooting out the systemic racism that still exists.”

“What you all have been through, it is unimaginable, it should’ve never happened, and it is tragic,” Harris said to the families. “But what you’ve done in spite of that pain, the way your strength and dignity have helped fuel a national movement for change is just so inspiring.”

Other speakers included performer Will.I.Am, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis of Illinois, who all reiterated the importance of going out to vote to enact change.

“We’re standing on the cusp of history,” Rush said.

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