News - Joliet and Will County

Councilwoman Gavin calls on Joliet mayor to resign over incident at protest

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk

Joliet City Councilwoman Bettye Gavin called for Mayor Bob O’Dekirk to step down after video surfaced of him scuffling with two men at Sunday’s demonstration protesting the death of George Floyd.

"Because that is not the actions of a leader," Gavin said.

Gavin joined several Joliet faith leaders and activists in demanding O’Dekirk resign from office over the incident involving brothers Victor Williams, 23, of Lockport and Jamal Smith, 28, of Crest Hill.

Video shows O'Dekirk grabbing Williams by the collar and dragging him off and down to the ground, then Smith joining in the fray before the police jump on them.

Smith and Williams were charged with aggravated assault and mob action.

Their sister, Jasmine Godfrey of Joliet, said she did not realize the other man involved in the incident was the mayor until she read an article about the video in The Herald-News Tuesday.

“At a peaceful protest a white man comes and grabs my brother, and what are we supposed to think?” Godfrey said said.

O'Dekirk issued a statement Tuesday that said, “I was confronted by a rioter, then attacked."

O'Dekirk did not return a call for comment Friday.

Gavin said she was "just floored" by the incident depicted in the video, calling it, "This whole mess."

"When I took this oath to uphold the Constitution, it did not say anywhere I could violate anyone's civil rights," she said.

"I felt the mayor was strictly out of line," Gavin said. "When I first watched the video, I didn't even know it was the mayor."

City Councilwoman Sherri Reardon did not return a call for comment. All other members of the city council besides Gavin and Reardon said they wanted to wait for the results of an Illinois State Police investigation requested by the Joliet Police Department before deciding whether to ask O’Dekirk for his resignation.

"Innocent until proven guilty," said Councilwoman Jan Quillman, adding, "At this point, it's a wait and see."

Councilman Terry Morris said it was "too early or premature at this time."

Councilman Mike Turk called the video "disturbing" but said he wanted to wait for the completion of the investigation.

"Nothing at all looks good" about the video, said Councilman Pat Mudron, noting, "I've got to let the process (go) a little further."

In explaining why he wanted to wait on the results of the police investigation, Councilman Larry Hug said, "We have an incident where there's conflicting accounts."

Gavin said she was skeptical of O'Dekirk's version of events.

"The mayor's account of what happened that evening did not match up with what occurred," she said, adding that she believes it could have had disastrous consequences.

“He did not just put himself in jeopardy,” Gavin said. “He put the residents in jeopardy, the officers and the city in jeopardy. He put us all in jeopardy.”

Joseph Hosey

Joseph Hosey

Joe Hosey became editor of The Herald-News in 2018. As a reporter, he covered the disappearance of Stacy Peterson and criminal investigation of her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson. He was the 2015 Illinois Journalist of the Year and 2014 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award winner.