JOLIET, Ill. - The mayor of Joliet is under fire after viral cellphone video shows him in a skirmish with a young African American man during a protest that turned violent Sunday night.
Now, some local pastors want the mayor to resign. But he says he was just trying to help police officers out with a dangerous situation.
“The police were being hit with rocks, with bottles, frozen water bottles, pieces of asphalt,” Mayor Robert O’Dekirk said. “That was a riot going on at that point.”
The mayor was a police officer for 10 years in Joliet before being elected to office.
“I’m not a policeman anymore, but I’ve been through this,” he said.
So when a peaceful protest Sunday turned ugly around midnight, O’Dekirk joined officers near Jefferson and Stryker on the city’s West Side.
He says he was shoved in the chest by a 23-year-old man. Cellphone video then shows the mayor grab the man by the collar and push him towards a group of police officers, when then the man’s brother tackles him from behind sending all three to the ground.
“I certainly have a right to defend myself. I wasn’t out there to engage with people,” the mayor said.
“We are calling for the mayor to resign, which we think is the right thing,” said Bishop Steven Evans of Leap of Faith Ministries.
A group of Joliet area ministers is condemning the mayor’s actions, saying he overstepped his authority.
“What he did could have incited a riot. He is not a police officer. He’s a former police officer. He should not have been out there with the police telling people to move,” said Pastor Warren Dorris of Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ.
“This has nothing to do with politics at all. It’s about right and wrong,” said Pastor Herb Brooks, a Will County board member.
The two brothers were among 30 people arrested that night, and the Will County state’s attorney has asked the Illinois State Police to investigate whether the mayor broke any laws.
“I’ve been told I shouldn’t be out there. I disagree with that. I’m the mayor of Joliet. I’m not gonna’ sit back and let that violence and lawlessness go on and not do what I can do to intervene,” O’Dekirk said.