Bloomington Council Member Raises Concerns About BLM’s 'Demands' Approach | WGLT

Bloomington Council Member Raises Concerns About BLM’s 'Demands' Approach

Jun 22, 2020

A Bloomington City Council member is criticizing Black Lives Matter BloNo for what she considers a heavy-handed approach following the group's recent list of demands to reform policing, education, social services and more. 

Bloomington City Council member Joni Painter said she supports Black Lives Matter but not how the Bloomington-Normal group has pushed for change.
Credit City of Bloomington

Joni Painter said she supports the racial justice movement, but doesn't appreciate the local group “demanding” change.

“You can’t go to people and demand things and think that they are just going to hand it over. They won’t,” Painter said. “To have them constantly browbeating people and say that we’re not doing a good job.

“I don’t see them putting their shoulder to the wheel in any way, shape or form other than lip service.”

Olivia Butts is with Black Lives Matter (BLM) BloNo. She said the group talked about messaging and decided that phrasing them as demands was the best way to show commitment to the cause.

“There’s a reason for a demand. There’s a reason for asking for something you want and you need to create equity for a whole group of people who have been disenfranchised for hundreds of years,” Butts said.

Painter also criticized the group for calling on McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage to release inmates during the pandemic. She noted that was beyond the sheriff's authority.

“Before they would make these demands I would think that they would try to figure out how things actually work,” Painter said.

Butts said BLM BloNo also reached out to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Mark Fellheimer and to McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp, to no avail.

“We contacted who we thought had the ability to make those changes, the stakeholders at the county level,” Butts said. “In that aspect I think we talked to the right people to try to make decarceration happen.”

Black Lives Matter BloNo is calling for reducing police budgets and boosting social service funding, among a list of demands it announced last week.

Painter said she's not for defunding the police, but would like to see more community policing and would support other reforms, including banning knee and chokeholds, providing more de-escalation training, removing qualified immunity for police, forcing departments to pay civil judgements out of pension funds rather than tax dollars, and requiring officers to live in or near the areas they serve.

Painter is a member of the McLean County Behavioral Health Coordinating Council. She said the county already has started work to address social service needs in the community, including the opening of a mental health triage center. But she suggested more could be done to help take crisis counseling out of police's hands. She referenced a program in Eugene, Ore., called Cahoots that provides 24/7 mobile crisis intervention, as a possible model.

Painter also said she also supports some jail reforms, including an end to cash bail, another of the Black Lives Matter demands.

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