About 25 to 30 people gathered at Irwin Park on Sunday evening to hold a protest and vigil in honor of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man whose death on May 25 while in police custody set off nationwide protests.
A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired and later charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Videos of the incident show Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes.
The small mixed-race crowd in Homewood on Sunday was mostly quiet, holding signs with messages like “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice,” “We Come in Peace” and “Justice 4 George Floyd.”
In consideration for COVID-19 physical distancing requirements, participants wore face coverings and stood at least 6 feet apart most of the time.
The event was organized on local social media pages by a small group of Homewood residents led by Gene Ellis.
Ellis’ sister, Olga Hernandez, also of Homewood, said the event was intended to provide an opportunity for peaceful expression.
“As a non-white person, to me it’s hurtful that these things are happening to black people,” she said. “It’s 2020, and it’s a conversation that’s been had over and over again and nothing’s changed. We need to bring it back up again and talk about how we’re going to change that.”
Joe Antonaglia of Homewood agreed and said he was there to show support.
“We’ve seen everything that’s going on online. It’s heartbreaking and depressing,” he said. “Let’s do something and show solidarity and support.”
Gina Smith of Homewood said she came to the vigil after watching the video of Floyd’s death.
“I normally don’t watch things like that. I lost my breath,” she said. “I don’t want it to happen any more. We have to start doing something about this.”
At about 7:30 p.m., Ellis led the group in a half-minute call-and-response chant. She said, “Say his name,” and the crowd responded with, “George Floyd.” Following the chant, she asked for a moment of silence.
Hernandez said the organizers got some push-back on social media from people who felt the timing of the event was inappropriate and might distract police, who were busy managing a precautionary shutdown of the Halsted commercial corridor.
Days of protest in Chicago were marred over the weekend by escalating violence and looting. On Sunday, looting occurred in several south suburban communities, including Orland Park, Country Club Hills and Calumet City.
Homewood and Flossmoor officials had urged residents to stay home Sunday afternoon, and Homewood implemented a villagewide business curfew. The curfew was extended on Monday but was limited to Halsted Street businesses.