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     August 20, 2020      #61-233 a2z
 

Bourbonnais man shows support -- daily 

By Lee Provost
lprovost@daily-journal.com


BOURBONNAIS — Rod Gustafson simply could not take it any longer.

He watched the news and read the stories. Day after day. He saw streets in major cities across the nation filled with protesters opposing police. He read stories of police cars being set on fire. He saw officers attacked.

He wasn’t going to simply sit back and do nothing.

He decided to take to the streets himself — in support of police.

Armed with nothing more than a sign which reads “Support Our Police” and a 7-foot pole, the 76-year-old Gustafson, a retired nurse, stands at the intersection of Armour Road and Ashley Avenue each and every day showing his support for law enforcement.

Wearing a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” cap and sporting a thick, grey beard, the man who served in the U.S. Navy from 1962-64 said his message is mostly well received.

“Every once in a while a get the finger or some profanity,” he confessed.

Standing at the intersection anchored by the Kroger grocery store and along the five-lane, heavily traveled road, which connects Illinois Route 50 and U.S. 45/52, Gustafson simply holds the sign and waves to the many who honk their vehicle horns in support of his message.

“Someone has to say something,” he explained of his effort which began sometime in late May or early June.

Asked how long he plans to stand near the intersection and display his sign, Gustafson said that is question he can’t answer with a specific time.

“When I see the last of the riots. When I see people have stopped throwing bricks at police. When people stop shooting police.

“I’m just an ordinary American. I’m just an average guy. I’m someone who grew up, got a job and had some kids,” he said. “Some people are taking notice and have the same thoughts as I have.”

Bourbonnais Deputy Police Chief Dave Anderson said it’s certainly nice to see someone share their opinion in a positive manner regarding police.

“We live in a great community and I mean all of Kankakee County. I don’t believe everyone hates us,” Anderson said. “There are changes that do need to be made, but we don’t have the situations that we are seeing in some of these major cities.

“This man has the right to say anything just like everyone else. ... I’m sure there is a small minority of population within Kankakee County that hate the police. [Police] are all human beings. We all have good days and bad days. We will still come when someone calls for help no matter who they are.”

Gustafson typically begins his daily shift across the street from the Kroger grocery store at about 3:30 p.m. He typically stands — or sits if the weather is really hot — for an hour or two.

He holds the sign so it faces oncoming vehicles. He twists his position as the traffic light turns from red to green.

Born and raised in Will County’s Manhattan, Gustafson moved to Bourbonnais in 1972. He would have never pictured himself in the position he finds himself each and every afternoon.

“When I first saw the protest to defund the police, I couldn’t believe it,.” he said. “I’ve never been that political. I’ve never been that outspoken. ... The whole concept of defunding the police. Where did that concept come from? Who you gonna call when you need someone? Ghostbusters? People need commonsense.”

Taking his message to the street is not something he ever envisioned.

“It took a while to get comfortable standing on a street corner. It makes me feel good when people honk their horns.”

For every honked horn, he shows his appreciation with a simple wave from his free hand.

On this particular Tuesday afternoon, a man in a red pickup truck pulls into a nearby parking lot. He approaches Gustafson. He had a T-shirt in his hand. The T-shirt reads “Blue Lives Matter,” in reference to law enforcement. The gift giver, who would not reveal his name, said it was simply his way of saying thanks to the man who was urging people to be supportive of law enforcement.

“I’m all for all sides of the story getting out,” the person said regarding the support of public safety professionals. “I’m glad he’s out here.”

Gustafson is again asked just how long he will be manning this post.

He pulls at his beard.

“I think the protests will last until the election. I really do. ... I don’t know. I’m an old man,” he cracked. “As long as I’m comfortable, I’ll stay here.”

Until then he will continue to be a presence at this corner.

“I’ll be here seven days a week, no overtime.”

He is asked if Bourbonnais Police Chief Jim Phelps has stopped by.

“I don’t even know who the Bourbonnais police chief is.”

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Lee Provost
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