Several dozen people showed their support for police Saturday afternoon in Clayton with a rally in front of St. Louis County Police headquarters. Many dressed in blue and white. Some carried signs that read “We support our LEOs” and “Police Lives Matter.” Others waved American flags.
At a table in front of the memorial for slain officers, Bill Peiper and Teresa Tate sold T-shirts with their 6-year-old son, Colton Tate.
"We've got law enforcement in the family, and they're doing their job," Peiper said, adding that the proceeds of the t-shirt sales will go for bullet-proof vests for local police officers.
"It makes sure officers are safe out here, as much as they can be," Peiper said. "They've got most of it with skill but some of it they need a little backing with. These guys are real too and they need as much backing as they can get."
The group said the Pledge of Allegiance, released blue and gold balloons, and presented a plaque to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.
"It's certainly encouraging to see everybody out here to support the police," Belmar said. "And as I've said before, I'm certainly proud of the officers, and that's from all the departments, that have really labored through this since this summer and through the fall. But you know what, at the end of the day the important thing is that our community comes out stronger. And when we can develop relationships with everybody —it's not about sides — I think we'll all be better for it."
Trish Dennison helped to organize the event. She also was behind the pro-police rallies in recent weeks at St. Louis Metropolitan Police headquarters and in front of the Ferguson Police Department.
She said she was led to organize the rallies after “sitting at home and watching helplessly the abuse that the officers were taking…. I said someone needs to do something. So I did.”
Dennison said police have been very grateful for the rallies.
“I love being a part of being out there and seeing the joy on their faces instead of the blank stare that they have to have when they’re having things tossed on them,” she added. After each rally, the supporters serve the officers a meal.
The pro-police rally was also attended by a few dozen Ferguson protesters. At times the two groups tried to out-shout each other with competing chants: "We support our police,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
At other times, individual protesters spoke to police supporters through a bullhorn, and vice-versa, but their proclamations were mostly met with disdain by the other group.
The event was book-ended with confrontations that led to police involvement. Soon after the rally began, a Ferguson protester was arrested. As the rally drew to a close, police briefly surrounded a man out walking his dogs, apparently to separate him from protesters who were upset at something he had done. After a pause, they let the man go on his way. Ferguson protester Ebony Williams said the man had thrown a cup at her and called her a name. Neither party was arrested.
Between the shouting, chanting and confrontations, however, a few small groups of police supporters, passersby and Ferguson protesters talked to each other, sharing their perspectives on the death of Michael Brown and other recent police shootings.
Mary Skees of Ferguson, for example, chatted with Marcellus Buckley of Spanish Lake. Skees said she attended the rally with her friend, a pro-police supporter, but that she could see both sides. Buckley was part of the Ferguson protest camp.
“We were definitely talking about solutions and found respect for each other, even though we may disagree on some things,” Buckley said. “Being able to respect each other is the main thing ... that’s what we want — for police officers to respect us. That’s why you hear these chants of ‘black lives matter’ because we feel like they don’t, like you all don’t care about us.”
“I can see where you would feel that way,” Skees said. “But it’s kind of an endless cycle. I mean there’s this going on at this end and that going on over here and if nobody is going … ‘What can I do to make it better?’ It’s not going to get better.”
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.