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Protesters, defenders find common ground in St. John
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Protesters, defenders find common ground in St. John

From the ICYMI: Here are the most-read stories from the past week series
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ST. JOHN — Two seemingly disparate groups came together Thursday for a peaceful rally for racial equality and justice.

On one side of 93rd Avenue near the St. John Public Safety Facility was a group of more than 100 people protesting racial injustice, especially in light of the recent death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. While that group was waving signs, the group on the other side was waving American flags and carrying firearms.

As things turned out, both groups were on the same side.

Johnny Boersma, of Merrillville, involved in local veterans’ issues, organized veterans and citizens to protect the protesters and community from violence.

“We are supporting the protesters and their cause,” Boersma said. “We’re using our Second Amendment right to make sure there is no harm to citizens, businesses or police officers.”

Eventually both sides came together, introduced themselves and protested together.

Ed Conn, of St. John, walked along the protest route, shaking hands and offering his support.

“I want to offer a hand of peace,” Conn said. “We’re completely against what is going on. What happened in Minneapolis is a horrendous thing.”

The rally started slowly but grew as more people arrived. Samantha Valadez, of St. John, and her son, Caiden Shofroth, 10, together held a large sign. Valadez said she came “to teach my son that we can peacefully utilize our rights and when we stand together, change is possible. Not everything has to be violent, but change is necessary.”

St. John resident Joe Hoyt teaches drama at Joliet Central High School, a racially mixed school. He carried a sign with this message: “You can’t teach black students and be silent about the injustices against them.”

“I don’t believe I can properly stand in front of the students and not stand up for injustice,” said Hoyt, joined by his wife, Meghan.

The issue of racial justice, said Lorri McCourt, of St. John, is affecting all of America. “Don’t threaten people. Don’t take people’s lives,” she said.

A number of young people and students attended the rally. Makala Morales, 23, of Hobart, is pursuing a master’s degree in urban planning at DePaul University. “I think everyone’s life matters,” she said. “And it’s important to stand in this protest. We have to come together.”

Landon Hall, 13, of Schererville, an incoming freshman at Lake Central High School, said he attended the rally “to support what’s going on and show I’m not going to stand on the sidelines.”

There may not be much young people can do, Hall said, but “we can use our voice.”

Brandy Sacino, of Griffith, likened racial injustice to an abscess or infection that needs to be drained.

“This is not an isolated incident,” Sacino said of the Floyd case. “This has gone on too long. I feel like I am living in the '50s.”

Brenna Sealey, 16, a Lake Central senior photographing the rally, noted, “I want people to know what is happening at these protests and to know the entirety of the situation. People need to understand that all lives cannot matter until black lives matter.”

Unrest in the Region: A look at coverage of weekend protests and fallout

Unrest in the Region: A look at coverage of weekend protests and fallout

Protests erupted over the weekend in the Region to condemn police brutality, specifically the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

Here's a look at coverage of the weekend's events.

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