September 26, 2022
Local News

Protesters gather outside Joliet mayor's house

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A small group of protesters gathered Friday outside Mayor Bob O’Dekirk’s house, at times calling for him to resign for his involvement in a scuffle at a Black Lives Matter rally.

O’Dekirk sat on his porch with about a dozen other people throughout the protest that lasted from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Through much of it, there were more friends of the mayor on his porch than protesters on the street.

But the protest group eventually reached 17 people and became lively when one of them accused the mayor of making an obscene gesture.

“Did you just flip me off mayor?” shouted Stephanie Batozech, who moments earlier accused O’Dekirk of “laughing at your own people” while on his porch.

The group moved from the far side of the street to the area closest to the parkway outside the mayor’s home, many of them shouting at O’Dekirk. But other than Batozech’s dog, which was on a leash, no one crossed into the parkway.

Loretta Hobbs, who organized the protest, said she plans to come to the mayor’s house on a weekly basis.

“Our message is he needs to be arrested,” Hobbs said.

State police are investigating the May 31 incident during which O'Dekirk, a former Joliet police officer, grabbed a man and pulled him over toward a police vehicle as the man's brother joined the fray.

Lawyers for Victor Williams of Lockport and Jamal Smith of Crest Hill said the pair did not know who O'Dekirk was and that Smith jumped in to protect Williams, his younger brother. O'Dekirk has said Williams pushed him before he grabbed him.

Many people, including local church leaders, have called on O'Dekirk to resign after seeing video of the incident.

Two of those pastors, the Rev. Warren Dorris and the Rev. Herbert Brooks Jr., put out Facebook messages Friday to discourage people from protesting at the mayor’s house, however.

Ardrenna Dean of Joliet brought her 15-year-old daughter to the house and said, “I’m glad she’s here so she can see the mayor sitting on the porch. He won’t come out here and address us.”

Hobbs kept control of the group, telling them at times to stay off neighbors’ grass and cautioning them to move back from the street when cars approached.

Motorists did pass through, one saying hello to the mayor and another shouting out that he should resign. A bicyclist riding by gave a thumbs-up to the protesters. A neighbor watching the protest from his backyard patio took a dip in his pool.

Police were on hand, including Chief Al Roechner.

“We’re here to make sure residents are safe and things don’t get loud or out of hand,” Roechner said.

O’Dekirk declined to talk to the Herald-News when the protest ended.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News