DeKALB – When Bryton Rimmer of DeKalb was 10 years old, his mom had a conversation with him about how to talk to and behave around police.
Now 25, Rimmer’s mom calls him every night to make sure he made it home safely.
“Safety shouldn’t be different because of my skin color, and I shouldn’t worry about living through a traffic stop,” Rimmer said. “People are starting to realize that it’s a serious issue. That’s why we’re protesting, why we’re marching, why we’re speaking up.”
Rimmer was one of about 200 people that attended a protest on Monday in DeKalb, an hours-long march which included one arrest.
When the protest first began at the DeKalb Police Department, members of countywide law enforcement and city officials met the protesters outside. The group included DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas, DeKalb County States Attorney Rick Amato, Interim DeKalb Police Chief John Petragallo (who's last day is Tuesday), DeKalb Police Commander Bob Redel (who takes over as interim Tuesday evening), County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan, Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters and Northern Illinois University Police Chief Thomas Phillips.
Redel spoke to demonstrators gathered Monday and asked to join in.
"We are here to support you," Redel said, responding to a call from the group which said 'You all are against us.’ "Whatever you guys need," Redel said, urging demonstrators to stay out of the road. "To show you we are standing with you, if you guys like, we'd like to kneel with you. We're here to support you."
The protesters and the officials knelt on one knee for nine minutes to represent the nine minutes ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was seen in video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck prior to his death.
The march was not without its charged moments, which included a tense standoff between police officers and a few members of the group who joined the march at Memorial Park. When they marched back to the police station, two got into a heated exchange with DeKalb police officers.
A man who was also at the demonstration Sunday and said his name was Cuddy was arrested by DeKalb police and charged with disorderly conduct yelled, "Y'all are letting us get arrested, y'all could have stepped out there with us."
As he was handcuffed, a woman who was with him tried to put herself between him and the officers, and was grabbed by multiple officers to get her out of the street. A struggle ensued, but she then walked away and was not arrested.
The remainder of the group continued to peacefully march throughout DeKalb into the evening, and were still going as of 8 p.m. Monday.
Andre Allen Jr., of DeKalb said that the police kneeling and marching alongside the protesters “meant a lot.”
“They didn’t have to come out and do this,” Allen said. “It showed us all they do care and appreciate what we’re doing. It’s a good first step to bring change to the world.”
After kneeling, the group, accompanied by members of law enforcement, marched along Lincoln Highway through downtown DeKalb multiple times, stopping at Memorial Park and the police station.
Interim Police Chief Petragallo joined the walk on his second-to-last day on the force before he retires.
“I’m proud of my community for doing this,” Petragallo said. “I think it’s important for us to show that we don’t condone police brutality, we want fair and equitable treatment for everyone. Walking together is how we build trust, listen and embrace our community.”
“We are not hood, we are not gangbangers or thugs, we are just people that want to be heard,” Rimmer said. “George Floyd said that he can’t breathe. If we can’t breathe, nobody can hear us and we can’t be heard. We need to be heard. Every day until there’s change, we’ll be here. We can’t continue to let this go.”
Pointing to people in the crowd, Rimmer addressed them like members of his family.
“This man next to me is my brother, this woman is my sister,” he said. “We have to unite. Protests like this, standing up for what we believe in, unite us and bring us together.”
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