Unity March focuses on working together
They held signs that said "End the drug war" and "Stop racial profiling." They chanted slogans that included "Free health care," "Don't discriminate against section 8," and "Free the Jena 6."
But many people who participated in a Unity March on Saturday said that, more than any single issue, their main concern is seeing more people in the community working together to solve its problems.
The march – with the theme "Community Matters" – was organized by the Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice.
About 100 people marched in three groups from the county courthouse in Urbana, West Side Park in Champaign and the University of Illinois campus.
They met at University Avenue and Wright Street and marched together to Douglass Park.
They chanted, "This is what community looks like," and, "Injury to one. Injury to All."
Several carried doves cut from wood and painted white.
"I think it's a really important event," said Saba Ahmad, a UI graduate who traveled from Chicago for the march. She helped organize last year's march.
"All the different groups in the community working for change, this is the event that brings them together," Ahmad said. "And it lets the community know there are these different initiatives, and it can mobilize them to get involved."
Carol Inskeep of Urbana was wearing a "No to war, no to racism" button. She comes to the Unity March every year.
"I like it because it's a chance for everybody in the community to come together – all races, all backgrounds, all classes of people – and say something positive," she said. "It's such a positive, encouraging thing.
"I feel like there's a divide in our community where a whole group of people are not part of the active life of our community," she continued. "I want to be part of a constructive answer to the problems in our community, where we unite to solve problems."
Aaron Ammons, co-founder of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, hoped to encourage more people to vote and draw attention to some issues, such as access to court documents, addressing cultural divisions in the public schools, and reintroducing vocational training in the schools.
But he hoped the march would inspire people to find an issue meaningful to them and use their talents and energy to resolve it.
"The objective is to get people to think about responsibility from the standpoint of citizenship and know they can do something," Ammons said. "We're not trying to isolate anyone. We're not trying to blame anyone or point fingers. We're just trying to get everyone to see they have to work together and address common problems and concerns."
Sandra Weissinger of Champaign sees ensuring people have affordable housing, health care and a living wage as a religious duty.
"We're a civilized society," she said. "Why aren't we taking care of our people?"