Protest in Auxvasse calling for chief of police resignation

2 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago Friday, June 26 2020 Jun 26, 2020 Friday, June 26, 2020 7:15:00 PM CDT June 26, 2020 in News
By: Annabel Thorpe, KOMU 8 Reporter
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AUXVASSE – Around 30 people protested in Auxvasse Friday night, calling for the resignation of Police Chief Kevin Suedmeyer. They are speaking out after the police chief was reinstated following an internal investigation of his social media.

Aleigha Turner, a resident of Auxvasse, organized the nonviolent protest at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 26.

“It’s a good way to show our community we are going to stick together and stick through this,” Turner said. “We are pointing out these wrongs, and they’re going to be brought to light. And everyone should know about them.” 

According to previous KOMU 8 News reporting, Suedmeyer was placed on administrative leave on June 11 after a citizen complained about posts on Suedmeyer’s personal Facebook page that were made from late May into early June. 

Turner provided screenshots of the posts to KOMU 8 News. They included comments about protesters standing in the roadway blocking traffic, saying “you deserve to be run over. That will help clean up the gene pool” and “I certainly won’t stop for them – though if they insist – I’ll identify myself – they can back down or get shot.”

Mayor Tom Henage and the Board of Aldermen investigated the complaint about the posts. Alderperson Danielle Huddleston and Ashley Stieinbeck voted against reinstatement. Aldermen Bret Barnes and Gary Westerman voted for reinstatement. Mayor Henage swung the vote in favor of reinstatement. 

As of June 12, Suedmeyer was reinstated as police chief with a “verbal warning,” according to a statement from the City of Auxvasse.

People gathered outside the elementary school in Auxvasse and marched to the court house speaking out against this decision. 

“These comments from anyone in the community—let alone a chief—are very disturbing and very shocking for anyone to hear,” Turner said.

Suedmeyer did not work the protest. Other law enforcement blocked off streets to protect those marching and those counter-protesting. 

When the protest finished its march at the court house, there were about 20 people lining the building across from the court house, yelling "save our chief." The protest, however, remained non-violent. 

Turner hoped the protest would pressure Suedmeyer to resign or be fired.

“I want him to resign immediately,” she said. “I want to get the word out about voting out the wrong people on the wrong side of history.”

Other protesters, like April DeTienne, just wanted a response. 

“Be a man of integrity like the position that you hold says that you are and say ‘I’m human. I made a mistake. I’m here to make the change,’” DeTienne said. “And I will be happy with that. Will that change everything? No. But it would help support the fact that change needs to be made.” 

DeTienne said she spoke at the protest because she had no reason to fear counter-protesters as a white woman.

“Most of my friends that are of color have texted me or called me in the last day saying ‘I can’t come April because I’m afraid,’” she said. “And that is why I have to come. I don’t have the luxury of not coming because I do care about them.”

In planning the protest, Turner said she has faced threats and racist slurs—actions she’s never endured before in Auxvasse.

“I’ve never had a racial slur directed directly at me until I announced I was doing this protest,” Turner said. “That’s when it really started.”

KOMU 8 News reached out to Suedmeyer but was unable to contact him. Reporters also reached out to the mayor but were told he was out of town.

Despite some pushback she’s received from the community, Turner said this protest is the first step of many.

“I want to live in a world and I want to teach my son that his voice is important,” Turner said. “Everyone’s voice is important and teach him not to fear and to not live in fear based on doing the right thing, no matter the repercussions of it.”  

Turner is in talks with Jefferson City’s NAACP chapter.

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