Cairo native says similarities, differences in '67 protests and - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Cairo native says similarities, differences in '67 protests and now

(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)
CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - It wasn't more than 50 years ago, protests and riots took place on the streets of downtown Cairo, Illinois.

Buildings were set a blaze and the National Guard called in during the summer of 1967.

All that in response to an African American man who died while in Cairo police custody.

That came as African Americans nationwide fought for civil rights and equal rights in schools and workplaces in the 1960's.

Cairo native Ronnie Woods witnessed the demonstrations in the '67 and says while the response and frustration of those protesting are similar, the issues of today have changed.

“People were just frustrated with their living conditions and things that had happened prior to '67,” Woods said.

Protests taking place across the county are prompting compressions to now and then.

A recent Time Magazine cover showed protests in Baltimore with the 1968 crossed out and 2015 written in.

“I think everyone saw the injustice and thought that that needed to change coming out of Jim Crow,” Woods, now a pastor and teacher said. “Now, it's more like okay people see where more people have access. So the question is, is this really serious?”

Woods says in the 60's, the focus was about gaining basic human rights and today it's about gaining a sense of justice.

Another aspect Woods says is different now than what he saw in Cairo is the amount of people he sees trying to profit from the situations.

“I don't remember people purposely trying to break into stores and steal all the merchandise,” Woods said. “That wasn't a component.”

Woods says that the looters and rioters are their own entity hurting the message protestors are trying to get out.

In all, he says a possible solution to problems many cities are facing is bettering relationships in communities across the board.

“I hope it doesn't happen that these communities that have the protesters and have things going on that are destructive that people don't abandon them,” Woods said. “When you do you really are breeding an area that is not good for society.”

Woods says Cairo faced and continues to face that very struggle since the 1970's. Since then, he says through efforts of Cairo community leaders, they have been able to make up some of the ground lost decades ago.

“With cities being so diverse, you need to make sure those lines of connections and relationships stay strong.”

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