Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Social Justice Reporter

Juanpablo covers substandard housing and police-community relations for WNIJ Radio in Illinois. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Rockford’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners voted unanimously to dismiss a formal complaint against the city’s police chief.

Commissioners found no probable cause to proceed to an evidentiary hearing over a formal complaint alleging that Police Chief Daniel O’Shea violated policy by showing bias and discrimination.

The complaint arose over a comment O’Shea made in May during a news conference.

Pixabay

 

This week the Illinois minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $10 an hour.

The increase is part of the state’s path to a $15 minimum wage by the year 2025. Jason Keller, the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Labor, said workers putting in 40 hours a week should expect about $30 extra dollars a week.

“You know, the intent of the bill is put more money back into the economy when you put it into the workers pockets," said Keller. "They'll spend it in the local economy and everyone will benefit.”

 

Jenna Dooley

 

Conversations at the DeKalb County government’s second virtual forum on race relations broadened this week. Demands for improved housing agreements took center stage.  

 

Jacob Maas voiced concern about uneven housing conditions and agreements that he says are prevalent in the county. 

“You know, we live in a community where it's not uncommon for people who rent to go without hot water, clean water, heat in the winter air conditioning in the summer,” said Maas.

 

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

This month, people across northern Illinois came together in Rockford to celebrate Juneteenth. They also used the gathering as an opportunity to protest police brutality. Rockford Youth Activism organized the event.

 

But what exactly is Juneteenth? Here is a brief history as told by those who gathered at Ellis Elementary on June 19th, 2020.

 

Those are the voices of Aija Penix, Laura Bates, Carolyn Cadigan, Aaron McAllen, Harlan Johnson, Toni Thomas, and Minister James Davis.

Jenna Dooley

 

Some DeKalb residents want the city’s Mayor Jerry Smith to be more specific on plans to address police brutality.  

 

The mayor spoke at a town hall Thursday night at Hopkins Park. The gathering was a forum on reforms related to justice and equality. Smith expressed support for its aims, but said he couldn’t talk details at the forum. 

 

Rockford United Labor has canceled the Labor Day parade due to concerns over the coronavirus.

 

This will be the first time in the parade’s 66-year run that it is altogether canceled. Jay Ferraro, who is a delegate on the Labor Day Committee, says that putting together a parade in the middle of the ongoing pandemic felt impossible. 

 

Connie Kuntz

It's been more than two weeks since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in Minneapolis. One police officer is charged with murder and other officers face charges related to the death. Floyd's killing has spurred protests around the country including northern Illinois.

 

   

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s office released a statement in response to accusations of mistreatment of inmates at the county jail.

 

The 815 Mutual Aid Network is a Rockford-based collective dedicated to providing resources in the surrounding area amid the pandemic. It alleges that on June 2nd a group of Winnebago County Corrections officers assaulted several inmates, leading in one case to a broken arm, and then shot tear gas into their cells. 

 

City of Rockford

After over a week of protests in Rockford, Mayor Tom McNamara has released a statement with a working list of four steps designed to address police brutality and misconduct.

 

Mayor McNamara has signed onto the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance which promises incremental police reform via “common-sense limits on police use of force with feedback from the community.”

 

 

Members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus gathered Friday at the Booker Washington Community Center in Rockford to preview a new working list of demands.

As part of a planned statewide tour, members of the caucus say they understand the frustration behind the recent protests over the death of George Floyd. In some cities, there has been looting. Rep. Carol Ammons says it’s time to think about the root causes.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

This week in Belvidere, autoworkers are returning to the assembly line for the first time since Fiat Chrysler shut down operations in March amid the coronavirus outbreak.

WNIJ spoke with William Vergara, an autoworker at the Belvidere Assembly Plants going back to work this week. Vergara says he's been taking every precaution when it comes to social distancing.