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Marchers protest killings of two Black men in Rantoul

Protestors marching through the streets of Rantoul demanding justice for Jordan Richardson and Azaan Lee on July 29.

RANTOUL – Protesters marched on the streets of Rantoul to demand justice for two young black men, 21-year-old Azaan Lee and 18-year-old Jordan Richardson. Both were killed in separate police-involved shootings this year.

Protestors in front of the Rantoul Police station on July 29. Mae Antar/IPM News

On July 29, about 50 people gathered at Christopher Rudzinski Memorial Park and marched to and from the police station chanting the names of their lost loved ones. 

They stopped at the police station twice, but there wasn’t a single officer in sight.

“I wanted to see them so it really pissed me off like no show your face,” said Allison Anderson, Lee’s aunt. “Don’t hide – you didn’t hide when you had a gun shooting.”

The protest was organized by the Party of Liberation and Socialism Champaign branch, with a combined effort from Lee and Richardson’s family members.

“There is wide community support for justice for Azaan for justice for Jordan, we’re here to support them,” said Derek Briles, an organizer with the Party of Liberation and Socialism Champaign. “We are demanding that Aceves go to jail – that King go to jail, and that Julia Rietz step down from her position.”

Jose Aceves was the officer involved in the shooting and subsequent death of Azaan Lee. On February 6, Lee and Aceves were in a struggle for Lee’s firearm when the gun discharged hitting Lee. Lee died the next day on February 7.

Jordan Richardson’s sister, Alana Richardson, holding back tears as Allison Anderson, aunt of Azaan Lee comforts her as she addresses protestors on July 29 at Christopher Rudzinski Memorial Park. Mae Antar/IPM News

“The Rantoul Police Department initially lied, claiming that Lee had shot himself on accident,” according to a PSL press release.

Briles claims Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz declined to further investigate despite audio evidence of Aceves admitting to discharging the weapon. 

“I used his own weapon,” said Aceves in an audio recording posted on the Rantoul Police Transparency site

On June 7, Richardson was shot and killed by Sgt. Jerry King during a foot pursuit – after he fell and turned to face the officer with a gun on his person.

The state’s attorney ruled the use of force by both officers involved in Lee and Richardson’s deaths as justified. However, many disagree.

“Jordan was obviously not a threat. He was running. He was on the ground. You can see it in the video,” said Briles. “If people have the same eyes to see as I do, they can see he was on the ground.”

The deaths of two young Black men within months of each other has placed tension and mistrust between some members of the community and Rantoul officers.

Corshaun Spinks, Jordan Richardson’s cousin, leading the chants at the protests in Rantoul on July 29. Mae Antar/IPM News

“It makes me feel for my life. It makes me feel like I have to walk on eggshells around police,” said Corshaun Spinks, Richardson’s cousin. “It makes me feel unsafe in my town.”

“You’re supposed to be protecting and serving us. You’re not doing that. You’re killing us,” said Anderson.

“We just want justice for our loved ones. That’s all we want. We’re not here to cause trouble,” said Spinks.

Many said that these protests are bittersweet. 

 “It makes me feel good that we’re all coming together to try to get justice for both of the boys,” said Alana Richardson, Jordan’s sister. “At the same time, it’s saddening that we even have to do this.”

She said that race played a part in the death of her brother but also Lee. While she hopes to see justice for them both she doesn’t have much faith she will see it.

“They’re the stereotypical Black people. They’re Black [with] tattoos [and] dreads,” said Richardson. “It’s gonna just keep happening, honestly.”

She said Rietz is a big part of her lack of faith. Alana said that if she stays in office she doesn’t have hope for their community to get better.

Jordan Richardson’s mother, Amy Richardson, marching through the streets of Rantoul demanding justice for her son. Mae Antar/IPM News

“I don’t expect [anything] less from her because her husband is a police officer. “If her husband wasn’t a police officer, maybe things would be different.”

Not only that, but she said that while they have community support – it isn’t necessarily enough.

“Not a lot of people with power [are] speaking up,” said Richardson.

Her mother has attained legal representation to help them get justice for Jordan, but she is unable to speak about it.

“I just hope whoever my mom’s lawyer is really gets us justice and I hope he generally wants it as bad as us, genuinely wants it as bad as we do,” said Richardson.

The Party of Liberation and Socialism Champaign and community members say they will continue their efforts and plan to have more meetings moving forward.

“This is corrupt, this is blatant corruption and we will put pressure on them until they act until they do something to address this,” said Briles.

Picture of Mae Antar

Mae Antar

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