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Election Aftermath in Illinois: Speak Out, Avoid Violence

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Police say no arrests were made during Wednesday night's  "Count Every Vote" protest in Chicago. (Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression)
Police say no arrests were made during Wednesday night's "Count Every Vote" protest in Chicago. (Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression)
November 6, 2020

CHICAGO - Social-justice groups are reminding Illinoisans about their rights when it comes to defending democracy.

Historic numbers of voters cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election, and counts still are being finalized across the country. Activists in Illinois and other states are taking to the streets calling for every vote to be counted.

As director of the American Friends Service Committee's Chicago Peace Building Project, Mary Zerkel encouraged peaceful protest and offers some advice.

"Stay with your buddies," said Zerkel. "Don't talk to the police and don't engage any counter protesters that might be nearby, even though that can be very tempting sometimes. And if you see violence happening and you can find a place to exit the situation, that's always a good thing to do."

Zerkel said it's also important to respect the rights of other protesters by not photographing anyone without permission, and not policing their behavior. She explained there are four Ds to de-escalate potential conflict: distract, delegate, direct and delay.

Learn them online at afsc.org.

Zerkel noted it's important to know your rights in case law-enforcement officers are in violation.

She said if you are stopped by police, ask if you are being detained, and if not, politely leave - and if you're arrested, you do have the right to remain silent and request a lawyer.

"If you are being detained, you should ask, 'Am I free to go?'" said Zerkel. "And then it's important to only give your name, address and birth date and just remain silent until you can be in touch with legal aid. But I don't want people to feel discouraged. It's really important to go out and express your right to free speech and assembly right now."

Other tips include bringing a bottle of water, a face mask due to COVID and a fully charged cell phone. She also recommended having a bandana and goggles on hand in case tear gas is deployed.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL