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Local

Black Lives Matter unity march brings groups together in DeKalb on Independence Day

Jessica Adeoti hands shirts to Lynnea Erickson Laskowski and John Laskowski during a Black Lives Matter unity march on Saturday.
Jessica Adeoti hands shirts to Lynnea Erickson Laskowski and John Laskowski during a Black Lives Matter unity march on Saturday.

DeKALB - The DeKalb Black Lives Matter group held a march on Saturday at the strip mall in the 1000 block of Hillcrest Drive, the site of looting on June 1 after one of the first BLM marches in the county.

Andre Allen Jr., one of the organizers of the event, said returning to the site was deliberate.

"We saw it as a great place for, well I don't want to say redemption," Allen said. "The first time they protested over here bad things happened. It wasn't us but we wanted to show things can be peaceful over here."

The Independence Day march was a brief one with less than 50 attendees, heading east along Hillcrest Drive, south on Normal Road, then looping back around on Greenbrier Road.

Allen said the march was also to show unity between the different groups that have been marching for the last month and to make sure the city knows there is not a divide.

The group was handing out ally t-shirts to those in attendance.

Although there were some bumps in the road Saturday - mostly around route planning, he said - Allen was pleased with how the event went.

"I think it went perfectly," Allen said. "I see all the people here that are supposed to be here. I'm super proud to be honest. Yesterday was a little rocky, we didn't know how it was going to turn out, but it turned out well."

It was also the last march for one of the summer's most prominent protest organizers, Tiana McAllister. The Kirkland 18-year-old is joining the National Guard, having enlisted in February.

She leaves for Fort Sill, Oklahoma on Sunday for four months of training followed by two months in Missouri. After that, she said, it's one weekend a month unless she is deployed.

"This is important to me obviously or I wouldn't be here," McAllister said. "I'd be with my family right now."

McAllister said she decided during her senior year to enlist. She said continuing to march has been a delicate balancing act.

"I see on the news the national guard is getting deployed to states for these protests, on the other side of it," McAllsiter said. "It's hard to work my way around it because I have an option but I also have to be on the side of the U.S. It's hard to put the two together. But for me I feel like I'm doing it in the right way."

McAllister said she's had to be careful about what she says at the marches and has been in touch with a representative of the National Guard to make sure she's not crossing any lines.

But she also said the BLM movement is very important to her.

"You have to be careful about what you say when you're in the military," McAllister said. "You're supposed to be on one side of things. I've been talking with my recruiter and saying, is this OK? If they said I couldn't do this, and I felt like I need to, I'd still do it. If I got kicked out, I got kicked out. That's how I feel about it."

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