DOJ: Investigate Rights Abuses in McDonough County
DOJ: Investigate Rights Abuses in McDonough County
Justice doesn’t exist for those living in McDonough County, Illinois
To Attorney General Merrick Garland of the United States & the US Department of Justice,
Justice doesn’t exist for those living in poverty, those with mental health issues, nor for Black folx and other People of Color here in McDonough County, Illinois and our community members desperately need the gaze of the Department of Justice to investigate many serious, credible allegations and evidence of civil, consititutional, and human rights violations.
My name is Heather McMeekan. I hold my MS in Health Education, am a former paramedic and EMS Instructor, and am the founder and current President of the Democratic Women of McDonough County, a proud charter of the Illinois Democratic Women.
I'm a long term resident of McDonough County. The Democratic Women of McDonough County and the Racial Justice Coalition’s work has been trying to help shine the light of truth on local acts of bias, bigotry, rights violations by public and sworn officials, and hate. We also sought to address systemic and structural deficits, fix disparate structures or treatment of people in our community, and to seek to listen and respond to concerns by seeking to get to the knowable facts.
Since beginning this work, we have become targets of the political machine of McDonough County.
The attached document will speak to many but not all abuses of power in direct conflict with the freedoms to which our vibrant Constitution of the United States affords us.
This document is an urgent appeal of an unheard population that deserves their concerns to be heard and properly investigated. A full accounting of harms done and consequences for those responsible is the barest measure of restorative justice we seek for those who have yet to receive it. We hope journalists will investigate and report their findings. Most of these situations have as yet not received even journalistic sunlight.
The Preamble of the Constitution begins with "We the people." It is intentionally broad to include all citizens of this great nation. The corruption, rights abuses, and multiple governmental oversight deficits we’ve revealed bringing harm to our most marginalized, least represented community members in McDonough County is worthy of a national spotlight and investigation.
I have personally been vilified, publicly taunted, DOXX’d, cyberstalked, had lies and disinformation actively spread about me for asking that each citizen of McDonough County be afforded the rights and liberties already guaranteed to us.
By focusing on the following facts (and not the slander) the abuses will speak volumes. Thank you, in advance, for your time and witness.
For Access, Equity, Inclusion, & Racial Justice,
Heather McMeekan, president
Democratic Women of McDonough County
****CONTENT WARNING: TRAUMA****
A quick internet search will show many news stories about the Ariel Harrison Case. In this case of a Black, disabled Mother brutalized, given a closed head injury, tased multiple times in jail despite being handcuffed, later brutally stripped after being denied medical care made national news. Her case is just one of dozens of cases alleging police brutality, abuse, rights violations. McDonough County community members deserve an investigation: https://www.vice.com/en/article/k78n8e/black-woman-strip-searched-illinois-drunk-driving-ariel-harrison
Examples of issues requiring investigations in McDonough County, IL
- Civil Rights disruption tactics being used by public and elected officials against our community members attempting to get questions answered: https://www.democratic-women.org/racial-justice-coalition/disrupted-racial-justice-at-the-macomb-city-council-meeting/
- Macomb Chief Curt Barker (Retired, Spring 21) told a community teacher “...because the community is a majority white, he has to enforce white cultural norms”: https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/1fUM66zTMD0tjW6gHj4swTGHqu5WwxQPXYExA0fxYt_s/edit
- Excessive Force, assumption of criminality leading to police brutality, false arrest, and railroading a Black male victim of a possible hate crime to prison: https://www.democratic-women.org/racial-justice-coalition/rjc-3-4-20-town-hall-on-race/witness-summary-possible-victim-of-hate-crime-excessive-force-obstruction-of-justice-at-macomb-walmart/
- Use of silencing tactics against those raising concerns [ Public Comment doc FOIAs ]
- Black Mother retaliated on after demanding to file complaint against MPD Officer: https://www.democratic-women.org/racial-justice-coalition/rjc-3-4-20-town-hall-on-race/affidavit-3-black-mother-submitted-complaint-against-officer-who-called-her-a-black-bitch/
- Black Man assaulted by cop in warrantless entry in girlfriend’s home in front of toddler daughter with heart condition: https://www.democratic-women.org/racial-justice-coalition/rjc-3-4-20-town-hall-on-race/affidavit-macomb-black-man-recounts-frightening-case-of-mistaken-identity-by-police/
- Macomb Deputy Chief Dave Burnham’s “Complaint Intake” of our complaint against Macomb Police Detective JP McLaughlin for his degrading verbal attacks against our Black Lives Matter protests, organizers, and participants, which MPD “investigated” and determined to be just his “rights” to say whatever he wants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhFbBQx00pU
Sheriff Nicholas Pettigout retaliating on elected officials for asking questions:
>>> Contact McDonough Voice Editor Michelle Langhout for info regarding the Sheriff’s ongoing intimidation, harassment, retaliation against journalists and public officials via email at email@example.com with the subject line: Allegations re: Misconduct by Sheriff Pettigout
Convict Leasing: The McDonough County Jail has engaged in convict leasing which should be scrutinized for adherence to all laws and policies
Jailed Painter trading labor: https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/article/20121101/NEWS/121039761
Failures to report injuries sustained during arrests & detainments, &
Failure to provide emergency mental health evaluation by qualified mental health professionals:
Macomb police refusing to document Black Mother’s concerns about dangerous red truck: https://www.democratic-women.org/racial-justice-coalition/rjc-3-4-20-town-hall-on-race/witness-summary-macomb-police-department-refusal-to-take-report-of-red-truck-attempting-to-run-her-daughter-off-the-road/
From #BlackAtWIU HashTag on Twitter https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/story/news/local/2020/06/16/wiu-president-condemns-macomb-racism/114292572/
News Story: Warning our community about violence - https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/news/20200204/homicidal-motorists-alleged
Police brutality, false arrest, poverty incarceration pressures Black Male victim of hate crime into bad plea deal to try to return to his suffering family: https://www.democratic-women.org/racial-justice-coalition/rjc-3-4-20-town-hall-on-race/witness-summary-possible-victim-of-hate-crime-excessive-force-obstruction-of-justice-at-macomb-walmart/
Failure to use de-escalation techniques in traffic stops with Black passengers, escalating interactions resulting in false arrest, illegal detainment, retaliation for calling 911
Kelly Case: https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/story/news/local/2021/05/01/macomb-police-racially-profiled-couple-wife-says/4889299001/
Birmingham Case: https://www.democratic-women.org/racial-justice-coalition/rjc-3-4-20-town-hall-on-race/pregnant-black-wiu-student-arrested-for-fearfully-asking-for-help/
Our suggested legislative fix: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yYQJfcKKLc7GE338O1nnHjrEQJd7EbNAA7m90boZCac/edit?usp=sharing
Failure to identify, report, document, and injuries sustained during arrest
Serious allegations of misconduct by some 911 Dispatchers, Macomb Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies, and Jail staffers https://youtu.be/Io1TOYUt9vA
Unknown Macomb Police Officer Giving a Black, developmentally disabled man a one-way ticket to the streets of Chicago in January, failing to notify his caregiver, misrepresenting his whereabouts to his caregiver for over a week, then only “locating” him via a missing person’s report once some people in the community starting demanding they “search” for him - and he had sustained exposure injuries, disorientation, and further trauma. The city refused to even acknowledge they did anything wrong: https://www.democratic-women.org/questions-for-mayor-inman-city-administrator-and-city-council-members-re-macomb-p-d-role-in-disappearance-of-a-disabled-black-man/
Failure to investigate the intimidation campaign against Dr. Jack Thomas, WIU’s Black President, as outlined in the article “Fear of a Black Campus.” No persons were investigated, brought to trial, held accountable. Yet, this was a CRIME, and crimes against Black folks going uninvestigated and/or undocumented: https://www.chronicle.com/article/fear-of-a-black-campus/?bc_nonce=w184m4pukjruoc7nd6f7al&cid=reg_wall_signup&fbclid=IwAR004g1NH6wrmhDQGhcZLXyoLVvB2eKvax0GS9rwEQ486a2DT15REVM87-Q
We are especially concerned about racial and ethnic targeting of Black folks, especially Black women, for: over policing, excessive force, police brutality, false arrest, false imprisonment in the McDonough County Jail.
We, the undersigned, urgently request an investigation by the DOJ into the leadership tactics, policies, procedures, functioning, and actions of some of our appointed, elected, sworn, and employed city and county officials and public servants.
There is audio/video, eyewitness, and paper trail documentation of serious deviations from best practices and reasonable person standards of conduct by public servants during chases, vehicle stops, contact with police, searches, arrests, evidence collection, and storage.
Investigations are needed regarding processing of detainees and arrestees, and use of force and civil, constitutional and human rights violations happening to human beings, especially black women in our community, by some of our public servants.
FOIA evidence has been made public suggestive of racial profiling, driving while black pretext stops, illegal searches, false arrest, illegal detainment, failure of duty to act, medical and mental health neglect.
Audio/video/transcript evidence appears to show some police officers and jail staffers committing assault, battery, coercion, intimidation, and we have documentation of destruction of evidence.
We also call for investigations of public officials and public servants.
Misrepresenting complaints to news agencies, city, & county officials by the police
Torture of detainees:
- retaliatory tasering, “hotboxing” racially-profiled Black folx, stripping them naked by threat of taser, male officers forcibly stripping female detainees, driving recklessly with unbuckled detainees in the back seal
- Improper, inadequate, and in some cases apparent deliberate falsifying of documentation
- Officer Gavin Steiger's errors on his reports: wrong race, weight, falsely documenting “no injuries” on taser report
- Jailhouse report: claiming “no psychiatry” while claiming forcible stripping was “for protection”
- Reckless driving - putting the public at risk and to retaliating against those speaking out about these issues
- Strange record-keeping practices/possible tampering
Refusal to answer elected official’s questions about complaints at the jail: https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/story/news/local/2021/06/08/board-member-debates-sheriff-complaint-policy/7599179002/
Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker, Deputy Chief Dave Burham (both since have retired), other Macomb Police Officers repeated dehumanizing, degrading, unprofessional, and in some cases blatantly racist emails against myself, our org’s work, other #BlackLivesMatter organizers and protestors, using the city’s email system.
Once our members saw how our “sworn officers” and their “leaders” were using CoIntelPro tactics to target organizers, denigrate participants, and use a false light against us to those down their chain of command, we ceased holding public events out of fear for our lives that the police would fail to protect us or possibly even stand by and allow us to be hurt - all for asking questions, transparency, policy fixes, and standing by Black Lives Matter.
Samples of Evidence:
Ms. Ariel Harrison’s Videos: https://youtu.be/Io1TOYUt9vA
Ms. Kelly’s Videos: The Magen & Cory Kelly Video, a law-abiding couple racially profiled, overpoliced, wrongfully stopped, mistreated, wrongfully arrested, illegally searched, held without charges, detained in jail overnight. He's a 2X decorated WAR Vet: https://youtu.be/J-Jpz0vNFnI
Macomb PD's Abusive Police Complaint Procedure: https://youtu.be/N3UXHYJHdWY
Complaint against Officer JP McLaughlin, whose denigration of Black Lives Matter protestors, organizers, attendees on his own personal social media was deemed acceptable to Macomb PD: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G762QAL6GD5gZ83iU6AvNzBkOkG_b2kfYpF4dZc7xWc/edit?usp=sharing
Public comment policy changes done to silence our org's racial justice concerns:
The City Council meeting that caused the city to change the public comment policy to shut down dissent: https://youtu.be/fkeVxGRWrfc
How you can help
- Please sign and share this petition
- Contact the DOJ Directly: https://www.justice.gov/contact-us
- Sign the petition to take Macomb Police Officer Gavin Steiger off the streets pending a full investigation: https://www.change.org/p/mpd-chief-doj-investigate-remove-officer-gavin-steiger-from-mpd-for-domestic-terrorism-police-brutality
Donate to the DWMC to help our work continue: https://www.democratic-women.org/donate/
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DWMC.IL/
LINKS TO INCLUDE:
- Democratic Women of McDonough County: https://www.democratic-women.org
- Racial Justice Coalition: Systematic Dismantling of the Equal Opportunity Fair Housing Commission’s scope, function, purpose: https://www.democratic-women.org/macombs-equal-opportunity-fair-housing-commission/
- Macomb Reporter: https://mcdonoughreporter.com/
One of our playlists: