Protest Reveals Tension Between Students and Community
October 5, 2020
Millikin students as well as some community members came together to protest for Black Lives Matter on Saturday. The protest, organized by Millikin student Kamryn Harris, started off with minimal outside agitators.
The group started at Fairview Park, marched onto US Highway 36, and eventually made its way to Millikin’s campus, marching on Main Street. The protest included a car in the front and the back of the group, to contain the protesters and assist the demonstration. The protest, according to multiple accounts, did not have an official permit for street protesting from the City of Decatur.
The group encountered a few parties who did not support the march. Two trucks revved their engines while protesters marched. An elderly woman stood outside on her porch, yelling at protesters, “All lives matter.”
A gallon of an unknown liquid was thrown at protesters from a car passing by. It hit the ground before reaching protesters.
But things quickly grew more dangerous.
While on Main Street in front of TKE fraternity house, a man driving a car decided not to stop, but to drive into the crowd of protesters in the street.
It did not get to the point where someone was injured, but many students were concerned that it could have escalated.
After the man kept driving his truck, protesters gathered in front of his truck, reducing his chances of moving. The man then tried to put his truck in reverse, while the back of his car was also met with protesters. For about 10 minutes, protesters stayed, blocking the car.
During that time, bystanders formed in between SAE and Weck Hall and outside of TKE. The bystanders watched and did not attempt to get involved. One middle-aged man on TKE’s property immediately yelled at protesters instead of seeing what happened and if everyone was okay.
Tensions were high from both sides. The protesters argued one side and for their safety while the man and woman in the truck argued another side.
Both sides used the technology they had at their fingertips and started recording. Nick Weaver, the man in the car, created a Facebook Live video while he was in the car, explaining the situation from his point of view after his car entered the crowd of protesters.
On Weaver’s livestream, he told protesters, “Jump in front tomorrow and you’ll probably get hit,” as well as, “I think Black lives matter but guess what? So do white lives matter too.”
The events of Saturday’s protest left many students shaken, and some of that has to do with both Public Safety’s response and that of the Decatur community.
Grace Jegle, one of the many students who witnessed the incident, is concerned about the people who are taking to social media to talk about what happened.
“If you haven’t seen on Facebook, there’s a lot of crazy comments talking about, ‘We all deserve to get run over’ and that ‘If it were them [the Facebook user], they would have run us over, and that is justifiable homicide,’” Jegle said.
Jegle released a photo of the man in the car and his license plate, which eventually led to people identifying him as Nick Weaver, who works as a driver for UPS.
The two points of view created a rift in what people believe occurred.
Dominique Smith, a Millikin alumna who often organizes and participates in community events around Decatur, responded to several Facebook comments to explain the situation from the point of view of the protesters and clear up misinformation.
“I read them all [the comments] last night, commented on a couple just because I saw some false info and I want to set the record straight with that situation and someone brought up the Black Lives Matter case of Breonna Taylor…” Smith said. “Like, I understand that case very well. I’ve done all my research on it. So I definitely talked to her. I think my biggest takeaway was probably the fact that people speak on something that they know nothing about. People weren’t there. They don’t know what happened.”
Smith is one of the many students working to organize meetings with community leaders and students to find ways to move forward.
“The slogan yesterday was, ‘Do more.’ We can do more. No matter how much we do, it still isn’t changing everything right now,” Smith said. “It’s going to take a lot of time. And there’s a lot of people within the Decatur area that still don’t understand. Obviously, that gentleman [in the car] did not understand why we were there.”
There are more stories on this topic developing.
Read more about the student and Public Safety response to this incident here: “Who Do You Protect?”