Peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, march held at O’Fallon City Hall

Al Keeler speaks to protest attendees on Saturday, June 6 outside of O’Fallon City Hall (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons).

By Angela Simmons, Weekly Editor

O’Fallon City Hall was the site of a peaceful protest on Saturday morning, with hundreds of community members coming out to hear speakers, to march through town, and to be present for eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence.

Organized by Al Keeler, Donna Johnson, Alisha Rose, Christine Pomsano, the protest, in response to the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody, was given the use of the parking lot at City Hall. Speakers included young OTHS graduates and community leaders like Bishop Geoffrey Dudley, Sr., PhD.

“Two white women and one black woman came together to organize this protest, because they are parenting in their homes the right way,” Keeler said of the women, urging people to come together and have uncomfortable conversations that lead to education.

Rose and Pomsano said that their role, as white women, is to amplify the voices of the black community, and urged white community members to listen, and to learn.

Floyd died after now former MPD officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Community members knelt or stood in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds to honor the time that Floyd was under Chauvin’s knee.

“All of us- red, yellow, black, and white, we’re all precious in God’s sight. It’s important that we call out racism whenever we see and hear it, no matter the color. It is important that we understand that the knee that was bent is a knee that has been bending for years. The only way we can straighten out the knees in this country is to begin with ourselves. When we come together as we are, we are unstoppable,” said Bishop Dudley.

He continued “I’m thankful for the community that we live in that we can gather like we’re gathering now, but there are many who have not this community, there are many who do not have the leadership of their Chief of Police that calls the NAACP and me to ask what they can do.”

Chief Eric Van Hook contacted Francine Nicholson, the President of the O’Fallon Metro East Branch of the NAACP, soon after Floyd’s death. Not only did Chief Van Hook release a public statement admonishing the use of force, he shared O’Fallon’s policies with Nicholson so that she was aware of what O’Fallon Police Department teaches their officers, and that he would not tolerate brutality in his department.

The conversation between OPD, the NAACP, and community members will continue, and details are being set for a meeting.