It was quiet on Cherry Street in O’Fallon on Saturday morning.
That was a contrast to the pedestrian and car traffic around the 800 block of Cherry Street on Friday night, when curious people came by to see a house that had images of a black man and woman outside, apparently made from cardboard or plywood. There also were messages painted on signs, referring to “white” and “black.” A video posted on Facebook drew onlookers to the site on Friday evening.
“I try to stick to myself, but I was out here smoking a cigarette and it started to get trafficky, and there were people standing on the corner, so I went down there and looked,” said Elgin Mason, who lives in the 700 block of Cherry Street.
When he got to the bottom of his drive, he saw on the neighbor’s house an image of two black figures holding hands and waving, one wearing a dress.
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“Well, I didn’t know what to make of it. I don’t know if it’s racist or just weird,” Mason said.
There were also three signs propped against the house.
One said: “White means ‘yes’.”
Another said: “Black means back off.”
The third said: “Red means heck yes.”
A video posted on Facebook by a neighbor had more than 250 comments by 10 a.m. on Saturday, most encouraging the woman who posted it to go to the police and the media. She did.
O’Fallon Police Lt. Dave Matevey confirmed his department was investigating.
“We are trying to get to the bottom of what is going on here. We will be talking to the resident there.”
He said the department had consulted the city’s attorney to see what could be done without infringing on the man’s right to free speech.
Rachel Sumerall, who is black and lives across the street, said she’s afraid.
“Everybody is scared of him. They are afraid of what he might do,” she said.
Sumerall has a 6-year-old son, but she doesn’t allow him to play outside because she’s concerned about the neighbor.
It isn’t the first time the man, who did not answer the door or respond to a written message left at his door, has painted messages on his house. Last summer, he painted “I luv Trump and black, white, gay, Catholic, animals, all Jews.”
The message later was painted over.
“I moved here to get out of the hood, but you’ve got to keep some of that to deal with people like this. It’s kind of scary, but you get used to it,” said Anthony Jackson, who lives with his girlfriend in the neighborhood.
The signs were taken down late Friday night.
Matevey, the police lieutenant, said Saturday: “We are going to go out and talk to the individual and see what the motivation may be for the signs.”
On Saturday morning, two O’Fallon Police cars pulled up to the duplex. They began to speak with a woman who came from the other side of the duplex.
Mason was back on his porch on Saturday morning, enjoying a cigarette and speaking with his mother on the telephone. Mason said he hoped police would be able to intervene and find out the motive for the messages. He said he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.
“This is a quiet neighborhood and everybody gets along. We just need to keep it that way,” he said.