Downtown Belleville shopkeepers say they expect business to go on as usual Sunday, despite a protest planned in response to a St. Louis police officer’s acquittal in a shooting death.
In fact, one business owner said she’s more concerned about a fundraising event that will close off part of a downtown street.
A political group known as the Indivisible IL 12th plans a “Stand With St. Louis Against The Stockley Verdict” protest from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Belleville’s Public Square. A representative of the group could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Owners of Peace by Piece, Seven, and Ben’s — all near Public Square and along Main Street — will keep their usual Sunday hours, having been assured by city officials that the Indivisible group has had previous peaceful protests in Belleville that started and ended as planned.
Should the protest be larger than expected or become unruly, Peace by Piece owner Jason Keck said he has a simple plan.
“I’ll just go home if it gets too crazy,” Keck said.
At the same time Sunday, a fundraiser for the Belleville Area Humane Society has permission to close off part of South High Street, and that has Ben’s store manager Beth Wamble concerned because the craft store’s main entrance is in that area.
“It’s not business-friendly to close a street and block off an entrance,” Wamble said.
The Humane Society event is community-friendly, counters Seven Restaurant and Lounge owner Stephanie Gain. Gain and others are having a block party with a “Pedal for Pooches” bike ride to benefit the Belleville Area Human Society. The all-day event Sunday will overlap with the scheduled protest.
Gain said she hopes the protest doesn’t scare away people who plan to attend the benefit.
“I do appreciate everyone who wants to have their voice heard, but we don’t want to scare the community away from downtown this Sunday,” she said.
Wamble, the manager at Ben’s, said the store would close and send employees home if there would happen to be trouble, but he doesn’t think it’s a likely problem. She said Ben’s has had to close in the past during winter storms, but never because of a protest or demonstration.
“Never, in 41 years,” she said.
News of the protest quickly elicited a strong response from the public on social media.
News-Democrat reporter Elizabeth Donald contributed to this report.