By Craig Hastings
Let’s have a conversation about the march that took place today, Saturday morning, through downtown Tuscola. A group of young women, graduates of TCHS, had requested the Tuscola City Council allow them a permit to conduct a march/rally starting at Ervin Park, down North Main Street, to East Houghton Street, ending at the Courthouse. At the Courthouse the group would hear from guest speakers. The event participants wanted to express their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, reform of how police handle the calls for service with the minority populations, defunding police budgets, and just recently the sponsors of the march included their request for conversation concerning the removal/change of the name and symbolism of “Tuscola Warriors” from the Tuscola School District. From my vantage point it appeared nearly fifty people participated in the march most whom I didn’t recognize.
Leading up to today’s event I had heard from a great many people, mostly those with Tuscola residency but also a few outside of this community. All of these people were concerned, some afraid, of how this march might manifest itself. They have all watched the television coverage of how these marches are acting out all over America even as close as Champaign. I had done my best to ensure people this march would not go off the rails and Tuscola would be spared window breaking and spray painting. “Do you have extra police officers coming out?” “Have you contacted the Illinois State Police for help?” “Will you be helping the Sheriff guard the courthouse?” These are three questions I fielded over and over. The answer to all three was “no” with one exception; I would be coming out for the event. I answered this way because I know the families of the people in charge of the event. I was confident the parents would work closely with their own families to make sure the march/rally would stay true to its intent. And it did. The police department received no calls for service concerning the march.
Wasn’t I offended by some of the signage being carried and some of the chanting being said? No, I’ve been a police officer long enough, most of my life, that I’ve heard and seen much worse directed at me or my fellow officers. This police department will and always has managed to operate on whatever funding the Mayor and Council has allowed us. The officers I work with along with myself will and always have tried to treat suspects of crimes with the same respect and procedures of arrests regardless of race or color. With this in mind and understanding there have been incidents in America when police have mistreated suspects and not followed proper procedures for arrest of some, I don’t take offense to the chants and signage berating police. It may seem to some of you that because the words are written and stated in a march in Tuscola that this displeasure is directed at Tuscola Police. I did not take that away from this march today.
On behalf of The Tuscola Police Department I wish to thank both sides of this national debate. Thank you for keeping today’s march peaceful and showing every other community watching how to successfully conduct such an event.
Editor’s Note: The petition referenced is not attempting to remove the Warrior name, only the imagery associated with the current mascot.