AUXVASSE — Police Chief Kevin Suedmeyer will not be on duty during a planned protest Friday night, City Supervisor Mike Bertschinger confirmed Wednesday morning.
Instead, security will be provided by Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism, his deputies and two Auxvasse Police Department officers under Chism's direction.
Led by Auxvasse resident Aleigha Turner, participants will march through town to show their disappointment with the city's handling of Suedmeyer posting inflammatory statements on social media.
On June 11, Suedmeyer was placed on administrative leave for a day after a resident complained about posts made on his public Facebook page. According to a statement from Mayor Tom Henage, he and the Board of Aldermen investigated the complaint and the posts. Then, on June 12, two aldermen and Henage voted to reinstate Suedmeyer.
The march is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Friday in front of Auxvasse Elementary School, then progress through downtown to end at Auxvasse City Hall. Marchers are expected to disperse around 7:30 p.m.
Turner met Wednesday with Mayor Tom Henage, Chism, Auxvasse Alderwoman Danielle Huddleston, City Clerk Sandy Lavy and Bertschinger to discuss plans for the march.
"I have a 3-year-old son, and he's three-fourths Black," Turner opened by saying. "I'm scared for my son and our safety, not just in Auxvasse and in our nation."
To provide background for the planned protest, Turner summarized three cases of Black people's deaths at the hands of police. Then, Turner reviewed the International Association of Chiefs of Police's Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and Oath of Honor, both of which emphasize an officer's duty to protecting the constitutional rights of the public.
She finished by discussing one of Suedmeyer's most strongly worded posts, in which he stated any "dumb***" who stands in the road deserves to be run over, which will "help clean the gene pool." He went on to state he would not stop for any "roadblock" he saw in the road. "Though if they insist — I'll identify myself — they can back down or get shot," Suedmeyer said in a post.
"This is a comment rooted in genocide," Turner said Wednesday, highlighting Suedmeyer's focus on the "gene pool." "Less than 24 hours after being put on administrative leave, he was reinstated. This decision tells me and others in your community that you support and stand behind these comments."
Bertschinger responded: "What I thought we were getting together for was to go over the details of your plans — I do appreciate you expressing your opinion."
Those present reviewed Turner's plans, which include speeches by several community members. A member of the Fulton NAACP will be among those speaking, Fulton NAACP president Anna Braxton confirmed Wednesday.
The city will block a lane of Main Street with wooden barriers while protesters gather outside City Hall, Bertschinger said.
"Safety is a big point — we've had a lot more backlash with this one," Turner said.
She previously organized the June 6 Black Lives Matter protest in Fulton, which went off without a hitch. Turner said she's had a racial epithet hurled at her in the street since posting plans for the event. Though Turner said she has planned a peaceful protest, law enforcement is bracing for a contentious evening.
"We have some intel that there could possibly be a counter-protest, and we're prepared for that," Chism said.
Turner also asked Henage to explain the process of investigating Suedmeyer's posts and Henage's reasoning in voting to reinstate Suedmeyer, explaining it'd help give context to the protest. He declined to answer.
Henage later left the building abruptly after being asked about an Auxvasse ordinance which bans use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies against "any individual engaged in nonviolent civil rights demonstrations."