Belleville turns tables on Stockley protests, offers banquet to those in blue
The gathering of a relatively small group of protesters in downtown Belleville on Sunday was the perfect time to provide lunch for the city's police department, a local Republican executive committee member said.
"It was a great day," Joyce Korobey, vice-chairman of the St. Clair County Republicans and chairman of the Republican Women of St Clair County, told the Metro East Sun. "Our police did a great job at the protest. You know, they put their lives on the line every day so that people can have their freedom of speech. Giving them lunch is just a small way to say 'thank you.'"
The buffet lunch was largely a partnership between the executive committee and the 4204 Main Street Brewing Co., Korobey said. The menu included a fried chicken feast, "baby sammiches," fresh fruit, bottled water and even some off-duty beer.
The lunch had broad support, Korobey said.
"It really was not just a Republican thing," she said. "It really was more of a everyone-talked-it-over-and-it-all-came-together thing."
The gathering came shortly after the "Stand With St. Louis Against The Stockley Verdict" event was announced on Friday, Sept. 22, by the political group Indivisible IL 12th. The planned demonstration was a protest of the Sept. 15 acquittal in the first-degree murder trial of former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley in the Dec. 20, 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
With the news of the planned demonstration, area resident Rachel DeRung Tock recommended a gesture of support for area police the day. The confab that followed resulted in an official decision by the St. Clair Republican executive committee once Chairman Doug Jameson chimed in, Korobey said.
"Doug said, 'Let's buy lunch for them,'" Korobey said "So that's what we did."
It wasn't clear what the protests would be like, but that really wasn't the important reason for the show of support, Korobey said.
"You know, Belleville is only about 45 minutes from Ferguson," she said. "I personally know a lot of police officers in Ferguson. I'm well aware of what they face and what the situation has been like for all of our cops."
The Belleville News-Democrat reported that a small group of protestors gathered on the public square in downtown Belleville between 2 and 4 p.m. to voice their objection to the Stockley's acquittal. The Belleville protests were small compared with demonstrations in other cities the same day, particularly in St. Louis, where 22 protesters were arrested on Saturday.
Korobey said she paid a brief visit to the protest and, though the News-Democrat reported "a few shouting matches," Korobey said what she saw of the protests was peaceful, estimating that, at most, approximately 100 protesters with signs were present.
"I think it was our police who helped keep it that way," she said. "Our police were calm, they were collected, they were courteous, they were professional, but they also were ready for anything that might happen and to do their job to keep thing lawful and orderly in Belleville."
Before she left the protest, Korobey said she approached some of the police to let them know about the buffet waiting for them back at the police station.
"They were literally shocked that we thought to do this," she said. "They were so grateful. They couldn't have been more humble; they couldn't have been more surprised that someone would do that for them."
Gestures such as the buffet help strengthen ties between Belleville's law-abiding community and the city's police, Korobey said.
"We back the blue; it's just what we do." she said. "It was a very satisfying day."