News - Joliet and Will County

Lawyers say witnesses, more video support case that Joliet mayor started protest scuffle

Victor Williams (center) at a press conference outside Joliet City Hall Monday. Williams was arrested after he was confronted and grabbed by Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk at a Black Lives Matter demonstration May 31.

Lawyers for two brothers arrested in a protest night scuffle with Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said Tuesday that they have talked with a dozen witnesses and viewed other video backing their case that the mayor was the aggressor.

The lawyers, appearing at a news conference outside Joliet City Hall, said charges should be dropped against Victor Williams and Jamal Smith, and police should consider charges against the mayor, including impersonation of a police officer.

Lawyer Lawrence X. O’Reilly said the two men were trying to leave the protest May 31 when O’Dekirk grabbed Williams. Smith came to the defense of his younger brother, he said, and neither brother knew who O’Dekirk was.

“We have a white man here with no police authority whatsoever walking around like he was a police officer and throwing people to the ground,” O’Reilly said.

Both Williams and Smith are black.

They were at a Black Lives Matter protest at Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue that was ended by police, when according to an account provided by O’Dekirk, some people at the event became unruly.

Video from the scene captured the mayor’s encounter with Williams along with Smith joining the fray and other police officers jumping in.

After the protest was broken up, there was looting and vandalism at various businesses in Joliet as 30 people were arrested and 10 stores were broken into, according to police.

The lawyers want a state police investigation into both the mayor’s actions and that of other police officers who, they said, punched their clients while they were defenseless.

O’Dekirk plans a news conference of his own Tuesday, presumably to address the issue.

O’Dekirk, a former Joliet police officer, has previously said that Williams shoved him, and he then grabbed Williams and pulled him towards police.

O’Reilly said the mayor appeared upset with the direction in which Williams was walking.

Williams, O’Reilly said, “was trying to tell him, ‘I’m going in that direction to meet my brother.’ And, that’s when he was grabbed by the neck.”

An ordinary citizen who acted as the mayor did would have been arrested for battery, O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly and attorney Michael E. Baker said they have issued the city a notice to preserve all evidence pertaining to the matter as they consider a civil lawsuit.

They said their request for an independent investigation by state police was supported by Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner.

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office also has recommended a state police investigation.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News