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Students learn their right to keep them safe

The sorority women of Alpha Kappa Alpha hosted a “Know Your Rights” event to inform individuals of what to do and what not to do when being pulled over.

Tiara Gore, junior social work major and president of the Epsilon Eta chapter, scheduled this event in light of civil unrest.

“Right now with the Black Lives Matter movement and the Blue Lives Matter movement, it has created a divide,” Gore said. “There is mistrust between police and Black people.”

The virtual meeting included two guest speakers: Chief Demario Boone, who worked with the Peoria Police Department and is now the director of school safety for Peoria Public Schools, and Nick Austin, lawyer and senior counsel and president at Wells Fargo.

The purpose of the event was to educate people on their basic rights, show them tools to safely navigate traffic stops and build better relationships between law enforcement and minority groups.

“We want to make sure everyone is safe when dealing with interactions with the police,” Gore said. “Also, [we want] to just kind of have a positive Black role model for us to know that not all police officers are bad and help build those relationships up.”

Some of the tips shared were to put your hands outside of the window, visible to police and to not reach for anything suddenly. Also, officers only need to know the minimum, going with less details could help those in a traffic stop.

Boone and Austin shared their advice, wisdom and personal stories with the audience.

“During the traffic stop is not the time to voice your opinion; it is time to comply,” Austin said. “After the police stop, you can contact a lawyer to help you navigate the reasons why you feel the stop was unjustified.”

American Civil Liberties Union is a suggested resource in Peoria for those who felt a stop was unjustified. They educate those on their rights and how to take action if there was a violation.

Statistics and resources were also provided at the event and the participants were engaged and asking questions about what can be done to create a better community with police.

Shared at the event, police pull over 50,000 almost daily. Black people are more likely to be pulled over than white people, and based on the near 1,000 people shot by police, 11 percent of those shootings happened at a traffic stop.

“We have to be vigilant about paperwork and filing lawsuits, filing claims,” Austin said. “We’ve got to vote, and we need to get our people into the police force. This is how to make real change.”

Gore said the evening was a success and was happy with the turnout, even being virtual. She hopes everyone walked away learning something and realized the importance of this topic.

“Things are getting better,” Gore said. “Even though they seem worse right now due to the media, there are good things happening. I hope that they gained the knowledge to feel more comfortable in these situations.”

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