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Peoria NAACP condemns 6 council members who rejected Cure Violence assessment funding

Brady Johnson
Peoria NAACP branch secretary Sherry Cannon speaks during a press conference outside city hall on Thursday, July 7, 2022. The Peoria NAACP branch's leadership is condemning the six Peoria city council members who voted against using $25,000 in COVID relief funds to pay for a Cure Violence assessment.

The Peoria branch of the NAACP is calling out the Peoria City Council for its narrow 6-5 rejection of a Cure Violence assessment last week.

“I attended the last city council meeting where the Cure Violence assessment was voted down for a second time,” said Arnitria Shaw, vice president of workforce and diversity at Illinois Central College. “I just keep thinking about the tone of the comments made by several of the members of the city council.

"And the dismissive nature towards a year's worth of concentrated community work. Work completed by those of us who comfort grieving families: who attend funerals, who mentor youth and are doing our best to collaborate, without ego, to improve the lives of those most impacted by gun violence.”

Shaw was one of seven voices in Thursday’s press conference hosted by President of Peoria’s NAACP branch Pastor Marvin Hightower. Hightower says council reluctance to pass the $25,000 assessment is because of Mayor Ali’s Safety Network, or S-Net.

“Let me say that again just so you can hear it … the no vote was about privilege, power, control, and a personal attack against Mayor Ali and the community stakeholders of S-Net,” Hightower said.

The Peoria NAACP branch and 49 other community stakeholders make up the Safety Network. S-Net has been meeting for a year to discuss solutions, which is where Cure Violence was studied and recommended. At last week’s meeting Ali informed the council of the working community group’s efforts and why city council approval wasn’t necessary.

“I did meet with legal early on to talk about whether it (S-Net) needed to be an open meeting,” Ali said on June 28. “The answer was that as long as it’s a community work group it didn’t have to be an open formal meeting situation if it didn't have more than three council members present.”

S-Net is meeting publicly at 9 a.m. Friday at the Peoria Public Schools Administration on 3202 N. Wisconsin Avenue. The council will hold a policy session about violence reduction on July 19.

Peoria branch NAACP Secretary Sherry Cannon says she is fearful for her grandkids' safety as the country is becoming more polarized.

“I believe many have become numb to the violence that is being played in cities everywhere in this nation, especially if it’s not in your backyard,” Cannon said.

Sherry’s nephew, Carl Cannon, also spoke at the press conference, saying his retirement from the Peoria Park District last week wasn’t the end of his community efforts.

“I retired so I could help even more,” said Cannon, Elite Youth Outreach founder. His new office is in the Dream Center, just blocks away from City Hall. Cannon believes S-Net has given a chance of progress to Peorians.

“This group who spoke have put way more than $25,000 worth of time into this effort, that’s really pennies compared to their effort,” Cannon said. “Get out of that horseshoe like our mayor has and listen to the real people who are trying to help themselves.”

Robin Grantham, who is Ali's sister and the community development and engagement manager for the Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity Inc. (PCCEO), believes the $25,000 Cure Violence assessment stalemate isn’t about the money, but control and power.

“The city approved $45,000 that same night for postage to update you on your electric provider,” Grantham said. “While council members are playing games black and brown folks are dying, we’re already at 12 … and counting.”

The Rev. Tyson T. Parks III of Bethel United Methodist Church spoke about blood being on everyone’s hands who disregard solutions to help their fellow neighbors. Peoria’s NAACP Vice President Sherry Carter-Allen says the group will not tolerate attacks on the mayor’s integrity and mentions the joint approval of Ali and Police Chief Echevarria towards the Cure Violence assessment.

“Believe this … we will not forget. To the Peoria City Council and all interested parties we shall continue to meet, discuss, strategize, analyze, contemplate, motivate, update and yes … even demonstrate in order for our streets to be safe for our children and all citizens of the city of Peoria.”

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Brady started as WCBU's Audio Operations Coordinator in 2022. Brady is a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.