Rockford Black Lives Matter case moves to federal appeals court

An overview of eastern downtown Rockford, including the Rock River and the Jefferson Street Bridge. (Photo by Alexbaumgarner through Wikimedia Commons)

A lawsuit over a lack of bond hearings for Black Lives Matter protestors will be heard this week by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Rockford Register-Star reported that the protesters were arrested last year at a demonstration on a Friday evening. Their attorneys argued the lack of weekend and holiday bond hearings in Winnebago County resulted in unreviewed and extended detentions, a violation the Fourth Amendment.

The protests were part of the national uprising in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis last year.

The case was originally dismissed because a judged signed a probably cause statement within 48 hours of their arrests. However, the plaintiffs said judge does so without the accused or their attorneys present making the probable cause hearings “constitutionally inadequate” because they deny people who are entitled to be released on bail the opportunity to request release within 48 hours. 

They were released on their own recognizances after appearing in front of a judge for their bond hearings, the newspaper reported. 

The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice with faith and community organizations from Winnebago County filed an amicus brief in support of the protestors.

“We have a moral responsibility to ensure that every person in Winnebago County is treated with dignity and respect, especially when they interact with the court system,” the Rev. Violet Johnicker of Rockford Urban Ministries told the Register-Star.

The appeal will be heard at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago on Tuesday.