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Champaign man refutes police account of son’s alleged beating

By Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media -- Critics of the Champaign Police Department are expressing outrage, and a differing account of the arrest of an African-American teen last weekend, that they say involved excessive use of force.

Police say Calvin Miller ran a red light and swerved into traffic to avoid police on Monday at around 1:30 am, and then at one point, jumped from a moving van, which hit the front of the house. Police say Miller then reached for the officer’s duty belt, and the officer struck him with his hand.

Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media -- Martel Miller, left, talks with Champaign Mayor Don Gerard during Tuesday's City Council meeting. Miller said his son Calvin, 18, was beaten by Champaign police.

Champaign police-community relations scrutinized

By Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media -- The topic of police abuse brought out a large crowd to Tuesday night’s Champaign City Council study session. It wasn’t an item on the agenda, but it grew out of the alleged police beating of a teenager who was stopped by Champaign police over the weekend for a traffic violation.

At least a hundred people showed up in support of 18-year-old Calvin Miller. They wore yellow “I stand with Calvin Miller” signs.

Multiple news reports say Miller was pulled over by police at around 1:30 Monday morning, and he fled the scene after his car damaged the front porch of a home.

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Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media -- Martel Miller, left, talks with Champaign Mayor Don Gerard during Tuesday's City Council meeting. Miller said his son Calvin, 18, was beaten by Champaign police.

Champaign council leaves groundwater ordinance alone

By Patrick Wade/The News-Gazette -- To the dismay of a health care advocacy group, the city will keep its 4-year-old "groundwater restriction ordinance" after a council vote on Tuesday night.

Opponents of the ordinance said it gives corporations a free pass on cleaning up contaminated properties, but in general, the city council disagreed. The majority of representatives on Tuesday indicated they were unsure repealing the ordinance would accomplish the goal of encouraging the cleanup of contaminated sites.

Council member Marci Dodds said it could, in fact, discourage cleanup and subsequent redevelopment of contaminated properties.

"I prefer cleanup to no cleanup," Dodds said.

Acton Gorton/ - A sign sits in the front yard of a house in the 5th and Hill streets area near a toxic cleanup site. Neighbors of the site are concerned that the cleanup by Ameren Illinois won't be enough to protect them from further toxic hazards, such as groundwater contamination.

Some neighborhoods leave pedestrians out in the street

By Landon Cassman and Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess - The city of Champaign came up with a plan 25 years ago to repair deteriorating sidewalks.

Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess - A sidewalk in the Dobbins Downs neighborhood ends mid-yard. Champaign city planning documents call the area's sidewalk system "disjointed."

Local elementary school joins the Backpack Program

By Rubina Ali/For CU-CitizenAccess/ Food insecurity – not knowing where your next meal will come from – is a problem that more and more people face every day. Even children.

But a program right in Champaign County is providing relief to kids from families who experience food insecurity.

The BackPack Program sends in-need children home on Friday afternoons with backpacks full of food to make sure there’s enough to eat over the weekend. According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 50 million people, including one in four children, struggle to get enough food to eat.

Rubina Ali/Social worker Mary Bragg hands fifth-grade student Tyrone Gordon a bag of food to take home over the weekend courtesy of the BackPack Program recently at Carrie Busey Elementary School. This was the first year the school had the BackPack Program, a national program that provides qualified students with supplement food during the weekends.

State budget cuts threaten independent living programs

By Joe Ward/For CU-CitizenAccess/ It had been a long and tiresome day for Hadley Ravencroft, who spent the majority of her Tuesday, March 15 in Springfield protesting the round of budget cuts set to hit the human services sector if Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget goes unamended.

She got no sleep the night before and was in physical pain at the capital, where she and some 300 others told politicians that their ability to get to Springfield with relative independence would be jeopardized if the sweeping budget cuts pass the General Assembly as they are supposed to.

Pam G. Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess/Yolanda Martin sits down to fold a clean load of laundry as part of her duties as a personal assistant. Martin works nearly eight hours a week as a personal assistant for Hadley Ravencroft, who has limited mobility due to cerebral palsy. Funding for personal assistants like Martin is in jeopardy due to state budget cuts. Without a personal assistant, Ravencroft could not live independently.

New clinic offers free health care option to uninsured

By Jenn Kloc/ For CU-CitizenAccess — Irfan Ahmad had a problem. He saw people in his community who couldn’t afford what he considered a basic human right — health care.

The engineer did what many would do to address a difficult problem: he reached out to members of his local religious community to find a solution together.

The idea for the Avicenna Community Health Center was born, but Ahmad and others at the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center knew they couldn’t do it alone. They collaborated with local hospitals, clinics and community members to construct a strong foundation for their free clinic.

Courtesy photo/Avicenna Community Health Center/ A patient has her blood pressure and temperature checked

Neighbors threaten lawsuit in campaign against toxic site

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess - Wading in the frigid water of Boneyard Creek on Monday afternoon, a small team of community activists and environmental consultants collected samples from a clay pipe they believe once carried toxic chemicals from a nearby factory and continues to pollute the stream.

Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess - Grant Antoline, left, a community organizer with the Champaign County Health Care Consumers, and environmental consultants Mark Zeko and Bob Bowcock prepare to collect samples from a pipe that believe is connected to the former manufactured-gas plant at Fifth and Hill streets.

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