When readers heard that protesters will take to Belleville Public Square on Sunday, they took to Facebook in full force to speak up, argue and comment about their thoughts on the event.
By Friday morning, nearly 350 comments had been made on the BND Facebook page post about Belleville’s local protest in response to the not-guilty verdict of former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley. Comments were filled with anger, support and the eye-rolling emoji as readers discussed the trial, safety concerns and the goal of protesters.
Some, like Rj Eberhart, want people to focus on other issues beyond the Stockley verdict in this comment, which was had 107 reactions by Friday morning.
Rebbeca Rogers, however, disagreed in her response.
“Maybe they are donating to the hurricane victims, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, picking up trash AND protesting for civil rights!” she said.
Others seemed worried or angry about the protest, such as Kenya McCaskill in her post.
“Um no keep that across the river don’t bring that mess here,” she posted.
Responders like Stephen P. Grider were more supportive of the event.
“All of you people saying “Belleville had nothing to do with it” are exactly why I’m glad it’s happening in Belleville. Opening your eyes. SMH. And Dede Brinkman...n, most of these people have jobs, you’re showing a bigoted personality. Classify everyone who protest into one category. THAT’S THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL THE PROBLEMS HERE,” he said.
Allison Jean, Melissa Danielle Finnegan and others posted messages of prayer and peace.
“This is all so sad and disheartening! I hope by the time my children are my age this country has healed a little bit. I know there are people hurting from feeling inequality and I will never be able to fully understand as a white woman ... But somehow I hope we heal and can come together!” Jean posted.
“God is just looking down at this chaotic world right now and just shaking his head, I’m sure of it. 2017 and everyone is still all about race. Where is the love people? I almost feel guilty bringing kids into this world because it’s absolutely disgusting the way people are now treating one another,” Finnegan said.
“the protesters should be required to read the 30 page judgement before protesting-- if they understand why this decision was made and understand the law-- then they can protest- on a separate note-- why not try NOT committing crimes and you wouldn’t have to worry about this,” Karen Taylor said.
While Karin Weast responded with another perspective with her post; “I read the 30 page judgment. I read the post-trial briefs. I read Brian Bianchi’s statement wherein he says “I observed P.O. Stockley attempt to render first aid without avail,” which is contrary to video evidence and Stockley’s own statement. And I watched the videos. I’ve been to the protests and will continue to go.”
Shawna Culp Cunningham got 35 reactions with her post: “He was from Belleville and just because someone takes their vacation and personal time and uses it toward tackling civil rights doesn’t mean they are an idiot. I get five plus weeks of PTO every year, these folks have been out for six days. No reason to assume they’re all unemployed.”
Reene Jenna replied to Cunningham’s post with another view.
“Shawna Culp Cunningham disrupting the lives of hard working people, businesses losing revenue, what is that going to solve?! It’s not going to change the verdict. Maybe the next criminal will make the CHOICE to follow the law so as to not have the same fate!” she said.
Others seemed concerned by the damage agitators caused in St. Louis.
“As long as they are peaceful they are protected by the first amendment. If it turns violent or destructive they need to be arrested!!” Steven D. Allen said.
“Protesting quietly and tearing up towns outta “agitation” or rioting are different things. Most people who protest are conducting themselves peacefully and want... to be heard by the legal system. Then you have the bad seeds who aren’t seeing things their way want to destroy things outta agitation. It’s not right. Our city should be left outta the mess,” Rebecca Wilhem said.
“The only issue I see is there may be a select few that will take advantage of police being distracted by protestors, and use this as an opportunity to tear up ...the city. And I’m not talking about real protestors, I’m talking about the ones who truly don’t care about a cause, & just take advantage of a situation...” Brs Ona Break said.
Some, like Tara Anderson Taylor, said they would be joining the protest.
“I’m in! BLM even in Belleville!!!” Taylor said.
Others, including Trevor Sehr, plan to be elsewhere Sunday afternoon.
“This makes going out of town even more exciting this week,” Sehr posted.
On Sept. 15, Stockley was found not guilty of murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith in December 2011. Since his acquittal, protests have exploded in St. Louis, shutting down areas of downtown and the Central West End.