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'All lives matter:' Back the Blue NC gathers in downtown Raleigh to support police

'All lives matter:' Back the Blue NC gathers in downtown Raleigh to support police

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Winston-Salem police vehicle light bar (copy)

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RALEIGH — Angela and Keri Warner said the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd left them not only worrying about what happens if their police officer husbands get hurt, but also about what happens if they hurt someone else.

“Now we have to worry about if they use force to defend themselves,” said Angela Warner, 43 of Raleigh. “Are they going to be prosecuted and end up in prison?”

Their husbands are brothers and officers with the Raleigh Police Department. Both have both worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years.

Keri Warner’s 9-year-old son has been especially affected by the current anti-police environment, she said.

“He can’t tell people at school what his Dad does for a living,” said Keri Warner, 43 of Johnston County. “Out of fear there are so many anti-police people out there, we definitely don’t want him to get any backlash at school.”

Those are some of the many reasons they were supporting events such as the rally and march held by Back the Blue NC in downtown Raleigh on Saturday.

“These guys get so much crap, literally, thrown at them daily,” Keri Warner said. “They just need support and need to know what they are doing is worth it.”

Support for police

The Warners were among the more than 200 people who came to downtown Raleigh Saturday morning to show support for members of law enforcement at the rally organized by Back the Blue NC.

Back the Blue NC started as a Facebook group on July 6, said Gadi Adelman, chairman of the organization.

Within the first week, the private group had 20,000 members.

Now the group has more than 40,000 members.

The goal is to show officers they are appreciated, Adelman said, at a time many are being attacked because of their profession.

“When they put on that uniform, they become a target,” Adelman said.

The group also participated in a similar event last weekend in Raleigh and are planning others across the state, including one in Charlotte in early September.

The rally included a giant American flag hung and unfurled on a crane that towered above Edenton Street in front of the North Carolina Museum of History around 9:20 a.m.

Wives of Raleigh police officers raised money by selling cookies, other baked goods and key chains, while vendors sold “Defend the Police” t-shirts, along with framed pictures of President Donald Trump and his wife and wooden flags carved with police department shields.

Frustrated supporters

The Warners said what happened to Floyd was wrong, but pointed out that every profession has some bad apples.

“One person can be bad in any field of work, but you don’t blame the whole field for that one person,” Keri Warner said.

Ed Parrish, a retired Swansboro police chief, said he was at the rally to show support for officers during these times.

Parrish said police officers need good training and supervisions to do their jobs safely and within the guidelines they are given.

“When you see chiefs, mayors and council members in other cities ... taking away tools like Tasers, pepper spray, not making an arrest when they see property damage,” he said. “And it is very frustrating for me as an American citizen to see property damage go on or officers being injured trying to do their job correctly.”

For nearly two hours, various speakers took the stage surrounded by American flags and vilified the Black Lives Matter movement while praising officers.

The speakers included Adelman, three candidates for the 2022 Wake County sheriff race and Republican Allen Swain, who is running for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

‘All lives matter’

The final speaker was Mark Robinson, a gun rights advocate from Greensboro who is the Republican Party nominee in the race for lieutenant governor.

Robinson, who is Black, held a red towel promoting Trump and spoke more like a preacher than a politician.

“Jesus Christ hung on the cross for all lives,” Robinson said. “Because all lives matter,” he said.

Police stand on the line between civility and chaos and are the reason that our streets are safe to walk, he said.

Groups like Black Lives Matter are spreading false narratives, he said, one “that is being spread from the lies straight from the mouths of Marxists and straight from the pits of hell,” he said.

Some people may caution people running for office from criticizing the popular movement, Robinson said.

“Well, crack cocaine is popular also,” he said. “And I will say bad things about that.”

After the speakers, the crowd, most of whom didn’t wear masks or social distance, made a short march around downtown streets chanting “USA,” and “defend the police.”

Most of the crowd was white, but there were a few African Americans, including Nzinga Johnson, 30 who wore a red Trump campaign hat that said “Make America Great Again” and a vest with Trump’s name on the back.

“If I am in trouble, I know who to call,” Johnson said of the police.

As the march turned on to Jones Street, participants passed a group of about 20 Black Lives Matter protesters.

Police stood between the groups as they traded barbs across the street.

Jordan Baines, 23, was among the Black Lives Matter protesters. He said he is protesting because he believes laws and related enforcement seem to benefit white people while hurting the Black community.

Baines said it angered him when he heard speakers say over and over again that all lives matter.

“All lives don’t matter,” he said. “If all lives mattered, police still wouldn’t be killing people on accident.”

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