After a demonstration and injury of a marcher, dozens of demonstrators gathered Sunday night outside the McLean County sheriff's department on the west side of the Law and Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.
Sheriff Jon Sandage and Lt. Hadley Welsh stepped outside to talk, surrounded by the demonstrators while a group of deputies in riot gear stood inside the sheriff's lobby a few feet away. Fast paced and emotional dialogue ensued.
“Why is the badge afraid of us?” one man asked Sandage. “I ain't got no criminal record. But if you’re pulling me over, I’m going to be afraid. If my son is out there by himself, I’m going to be afraid."
Sandage fielded a blizzard of questions and statements, coming one after the other from the group surrounding him and Welsh. At one point, a demonstrator called on the crowd to slow down and go one at a time because he thought Sandage was being overwhelmed with the constant input.
One woman noted the squad in riot gear inside the jail lobby and expressed skepticism of Sandage’s intention to have a dialogue.
“We try to talk to you all and somehow are seen as -- oh my gosh! They’re threatening me. Something about us asking y’all to see us for being people, for not killing us, for seeing that I got the same heart that you got. I got the same amount of bones you got. We are trying to get you to see that. But somehow us just being here, y’all are afraid,” said the woman in her 20s.
“From our standpoint, this is our courthouse,” replied Sandage. “This is our jail and we have got a duty to protect it. We don’t know what everybody’s intentions are. I’m telling you now, we know that 99% of you had good intentions and only wanted to make a statement and get your point across. But there’s always that 1% we gotta worry about and that’s why we are protecting our building.”
Sandage and Welsh continued to indicate their desire to listen and to effect change in community relations.
“One thing is very clear, Policing must change in this country,” said Sandage.
Some in the crowd remained skeptical.
“How do you plan to educate the police officers in your department that don’t undertand that and try to treat us wrong? How do you plan on educating them?" asked another woman marcher.
“There has been a huge wave of change in the last four to five years in these educational mandates. We are mandated to take the training,” said Welsh.
After more than a half hour of conversation, Sandage and Welsh urged the crowd to continue walking and talking and began to move away from the jail. Most marchers drifted away as the dialogue continued.
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