Catastrophe loomed on the horizon and it took the decisive action of a former military man to save the day.
That’s right, retired Army Col. Jim Capparelli, who is now the Joliet city manager, stepped in and took matters into his own hands, keeping the Collins Street Neighborhood Council out of the Old Joliet Prison less than two weeks before they planned to occupy the place for a block party.
Now a block party, on its face, may not sound particularly terrible. In fact, the one planned for the prison looked like it might even have been quite a bit of fun.
After all, this was supposed to be a family-friendly event with food vendors and live music, with all the proceeds going toward the prison restoration effort.
An afternoon of food and music at the Old Joliet Prison probably wouldn’t alarm an ordinary man or woman, which is why it’s a good thing City Manager Capparelli isn’t an ordinary man or woman. Capparelli was able to sense the danger associated with allowing the Collins Street Neighborhood Council into the Old Joliet Prison, to realize that if the doors were to swing open for this particular organization, it would be impossible to shut them on any other group intent on infiltrating the state-owned, city-leased former correctional center. A group like the Outlaw Motorcycle club, for example, or even the Ku Klux Klan, which Capparelli pointed out during a meeting shortly before the scheduled date of the block party, according to Amy Sanchez, a Collins Street Neighborhood Council board member.
“To us directly, he said it would be no different than letting the Outlaws or the KKK” throw a party, Sanchez said.
Neighborhood council President Tanya Arias also recalled Capparelli invoking the Klan and the Outlaws during the meeting. Capparelli, for his part, failed to return a call inquiring about the block party situation, which was unfortunate, as the connection between the Collins Street Neighborhood Council and the Outlaws, to say nothing of the Klan, is somewhat difficult to ascertain and it would have been nice to hear his explanation.
It’s not as if the Collins Street Neighborhood Council ever flew a Confederate flag off its clubhouse or painted menacing slogans on its walls like, “God forgives Outlaws don’t.” The neighborhood council doesn’t even have a clubhouse.
To be fair, the Outlaws did get rid of the Confederate flag and the menacing slogan after one of their members was arrested and charged with murdering a woman in the clubhouse, with shooting her in the head and then hiding her body in a pole barn down in Kankakee County. Outlaw Jeremy Boshears is still in jail waiting on his case nearly four years later, so Capparelli likely won’t have to worry about him trying to throw a party at the Old Joliet Prison any time soon.
But even if Boshears did somehow get out of jail and decided to organize an event inside the prison walls with some of the other Outlaws, or if the Ku Klux Klan showed up with plans for a block party party of their own, you’d think it would be pretty simple for the city to simply refuse them, whether the Collins Street Neighborhood Council had its day or not.
There must be something more to it, something only a guy like GI Jim Capparelli can understand. We’re just lucky he drew the line and saved us from this disaster before it was too late.
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeHosey.