YORKVILLE – A group of Kendall County area high school students gathered Tuesday afternoon, June 2, at the intersection of Bridge (Route 47) and Van Emmon streets in downtown Yorkville for a Black Lives Matter protest.
The group initially numbered about a dozen, but slowly grew to about 25 as the three-hour protest continued. The participants held up signs proclaiming “I Can’t Breathe –George Floyd,” “Black Lives Matter” as cars and trucks passed by along the busy highway.
Plano resident Nehemiah Denton said he attended the protest as a measure of “long-term self-defense.”
“People are getting killed. I’m black, and I’d rather not get killed by people who are supposed to serve and protect,” Denton said. “I’m out here, kind of like long-term self-defense.
“The state of the U.S. is not in a place where I want it to be, so I’m out here for change.”
Yorkville resident Ariana Somma said she decided to participate because “people of color are getting targeted by the police for no reason, and the government isn’t really doing anything about it.”
Pastor Matt Conrad of Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville also was in attendance at the protest Tuesday, standing separate from the participants on the sidewalk.
When asked why he attended, Conrad said he was there “just to pray for everyone, make sure people are safe. I figured it’s hot, and people needed some water.”
“There’s a lot of unrest, a lot of people not feeling heard and I wanted to be here to listen and pray,” he said. “I know a lot of things are happening everywhere, and Yorkville’s a great place. I just want people to be safe and take care of themselves.”
Members of the Yorkville Police Department and Kendall County Sheriff’s Office were present, monitoring the rally. In posts made to the YPD Facebook page, authorities confirmed they were aware of, and monitoring the rally, which had been organized through the social media platform Snapchat.
“We are monitoring the situation with area law enforcement agencies and we will be on hand with an increased presence to protect protesters and the public. We support the ability to assemble and ask that everyone remain peaceful,” the statement read. A later post confirmed that the group remained peaceful, and that an “increased presence” would remain in downtown Yorkville.
When asked what locals could do to show their support, Denton and other protesters encouraged spreading and increasing awareness and understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sofia suggested attending rallies, starting a rally or sharing information through social media.
“It’s a big, big thing, and really anything can help,” she said.
“Even if you don’t totally agree with what we’re doing, at least learn about it and get a different perspective on things,” Denton said. “Just be open-minded.”