As of noon Tuesday everyone involved in a protest held outside the historic courthouse in Union were happy with the results.
More than 100 people gathered to voice their concerns prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week while being taken into police custody.
Protest organizer Alexandria Gray, 31, St. Louis, formerly of St. Clair, said she chose Franklin County for the protest because this is where she grew up.
“This is where we want to be,” Gray said. “This is the reason I chose this place. We feel safe here and we know the police are here to protect us.”
Gray added the purpose for the protest was systemic inequality and a quest for justice.
“We’ve been fighting too long,” she said. “I don’t care if it was just me out here. I was going to do it. I see a lot of people I went to school with and I probably know about one-third of the people out here right now.”
The crowd Tuesday was a mix of people of all ages and colors, and the city of Union was accommodating the peaceful protest by blocking off a portion of Main Street in front of the courthouse to keep both passers-by and protesters safe.
“We had about 400 followers on social media,” Gray said. “There are a lot more who continue to walk up.”
Gray added the group organizing the protest had its own people mixed in the crowd doing surveillance to weed out anyone who decides to conduct any criminal activity.
“If they do, we will point them out to police. You see who we have watching over us?” Gray said displaying the name Pelton and a phone number written in black marker on her forearm in two-inch letters. “That’s who I’m calling if we have problems.”
“Pelton” referred to Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton who was at the old courthouse just feet from the protesters.
The protest was expected to last until about 8 p.m. Tuesday. They wanted to clear the streets before dark.
Several Union police officers along with Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies and highway patrolmen were on hand keeping a watchful eye on the protesters from a distance.
Union park employees put out trash barrels for the protesters to have a place to dispose of garbage as the temperatures were expected to rise into the 90s later in the afternoon.
Union Police Chief Andrew Parker said he was pleased with the behavior of everyone involved.
“It’s going well,” Parker said. “The weather is nice and everyone is doing what they are expected to do. They are protesting peacefully.”
Parker said he consulted with the mayor of Union and they decided it would be best to block off the streets and allow everyone to have a safe place to make their voices heard.
“I feel good about it,” Parker said. “We met with the organizers and asked what they wanted to do. We did ask them not to block the streets or interfere with the flow of traffic. So far, I’m comfortable.”
As cars passed by on Oak Street protesters waved signs, shouted and chanted through bullhorns. Drivers honked their vehicle horns and held up cellphones to try and record the protest.
Pelton, who also met with organizers, said he was in full support of the right to protest as long as it remained peaceful.
“We hope this can be a model for protests in other parts of the country,” Pelton said. “They are out here exercising their constitutional right and as long as they don’t do anything criminal it’s fine.”
Pelton estimated about one-third of the protesters he saw were locals.