Photo by Dermot Connolly
A Black Lives Matter protest march led by Oak Lawn Community High School students on Friday makes its way east on 95th Street to Oak Lawn Village Hall.
By Dermot Connolly
Hundreds of people turned out for a Black Lives Matter protest march organized by Oak Lawn Community High School students last Friday.
The march started at the high school, at 95 th Street and Southwest Highway, and headed east on 95th Street to Village Hall on Raymond Avenue, where they rallied for about 30 minutes.
Among the area residents who joined the protest and march at the high school were two women from Burbank, both 26, who said they came to speak out against injustice.
“It's time we start using our voices and to speak out against what is wrong," said one of the women who preferred not to give her name. "I think this will matter this time if we can sustain this effort. I think it really could make a difference.”
As the marchers carrying signs and banners made their way toward Village Hall, they were greeted by many honks of support from passing motorists, as well as numerous people holding signs — including some of their teachers.
“I think it is important for our students to know that they have our support,” said OLCHS English teacher Amy Perras. “Not being racist is not enough. You have to be anti-racist."
A few drivers who had to stop for the protest shook their heads in disgust. However, the overall response was favorable.
“ What about white lives?” asked an Oak Lawn man, when he came upon a woman holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign on 95 th Street.
“ Yes, they are all important,” said the woman waiting to join the march.
Libby Langevin of Evergreen Park, a member of Pilgrim Faith Church in Oak Lawn, and her daughter, Abby, brought her granddaughter, Payton Werner in a stroller, to lend their support. “That video (of George Floyd dying as a police officer knelt on him) affected us all. We need to come together,” said Langevin.
Kevin Jackson, an OLCHS alumnus now at Illinois State University, was among the first to speak when the crowd gathered in front of Village Hall.
“ I have been protesting non-stop since Saturday. This community means a lot to me. I cannot be more happy to see that all of you took time out of your day to support people who look like me,” he said. “This is about love. We simply want to be included since we have been excluded since we were brought here (against our will),” he said.
“ Shut down the racist comments. As you protest, as you march, remember that is all about love,” he stressed.
“ It’s all about change — now!” shouted one woman.
“ Nothing is going to change until people are uncomfortable,” said another.
“ Not all policemen are bad,” said one of the young male speakers. “They are here to make sure we have our First Amendment rights,” he said, asking for a round of applause for the officers who accompanied them from the high school and looking on.
He noted that one of his own close relatives was shot by police in Chicago.
“ His situation wasn’t the best. He was wrong, the police were wrong. But we’ve got to continue to uplift each other, work with each other. All lives matter.”
In addition to Floyd, the protesters shouted the names of numerous other people killed by police in recent years, as well as Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Because it would have been her 27 th birthday, they gave special attention to Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was shot and killed by police who mistakenly broke into her home in Louisville, Ky., on March 13.
Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury came out of Village Hall and watched the demonstration, which ended after participants maintained 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence, marking the time that Floyd lay on a Minneapolis street with a police officer’s knee on his neck.
“ I just wanted to hear what the people had to say. Their message was right. All lives do matter,” said the mayor. “There is a lot of healing we need to do. I will never forget the moment I saw Mr. Floyd dying on TV. I just want us to move forward and not backward.
“ Seeing so many young people here gives me hope for the future,” said Bury, adding that she was also very proud of the local police officers who were there too.
“ We are not done here,” said organizer Phillip Armstrong, a longtime Oak Lawn resident who was the first black homecoming king at Oak Lawn Community High School in 2007. He now is a teacher.
“ This village means so much to me. We don’t need thousands to come out. We just need a few village souls, and seeing this many people here means a lot. This wasn’t happening in Oak Lawn years ago. We need to get justice for these people and be together and stand against racism,” said Armstrong.