Hundreds attended a “Berea Backs the Blue” march in Berea on Saturday, waving American flags, thin blue line flags and holding signs showing support for law enforcement as they made the half-mile trek down Chestnut Street to Berea City Hall.
Supporters lined the sidewalks along the march, also waving flags and some taking selfies with law enforcement working the event.
The overarching message shared by organizers and attendees of the march on Saturday was that police should be uplifted and supported for what they do for their communities every day.
“We’ve seen in the media and just around the country in general, just a lot of negativity toward our police and we just kind of wanted to let our local police know that we are behind them and we support them,” organizer Jason Kentworthy said.
Fellow organizer Tina McIntosh said it was imperative that local law enforcement saw members of their community supporting them in large numbers.
A show of support could do wonders for morale in the department, she said, and help to prevent good officers from wanting to leave law enforcement.
“What kind of service will you get if the morale of the police departments are down?” McIntosh said. “They need to see our support and know that we are thankful for them … I could not imagine living in a society that is lawless. We need our law enforcement.”
Attendee Danny Ramey said he has always supported the “blue” and felt it was important to be present on Saturday as a visual reminder to local law enforcement that many in the community still stand behind them.
Law enforcement is necessary, Ramey added, and said that many good officers are being blamed for the inexcusable actions of a few.
“No matter what party you are from, we all need law and order and we all want to go home and feel safe. I think everyone wants that ... All the negative things that have come out about a few bad police have made it look bad on all of them,” Ramey said.
Jason Kirby, a former Berea Police officer and co-founder of the Central Kentucky Riders, said his group were excited to be in Berea for the event on Saturday and praised it as sign of unity and positivity the country desperately needs.
“Our whole club, we all support the police and we wanted to be here to let them know we support them ... Our club we have any race, any color, any creed, male or female; we support togetherness, that’s why we’re here,” Kirby said of the CKR’s participation.
Law enforcement is a tough job, Kirby added, but officers still go out everyday to serve their communities.
“This climate is just negativity. It’s all negativity. The shining light in all of it is law enforcement, who come do their job everyday. It’s a calling, they come out to help people everyday,” he said.
After the march, attendees gathered to hear a reading of the Berea City Council's recent resolution that was passed concerning law enforcement.
Berea City Council member David Rowlette read the proclamation in front of the crowd gathered.
“We are very proud of (the resolution) as a city council. It was unanimous thing and I think it speaks to our mayor’s efforts, when he spoke about unity in our city. We are all divided on different things, but on things like this we can come together and support our police officers and we are very proud of them,” Rowlette said during his remarks on Saturday.
The event closed with a prayer and a few remarks from John Isaacs, pastor of Deer Stable Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson County.
“I full-heartedly support our police officers and I thank god for them,” Isaacs told The Register after the event. “(Our support of them is important) They don’t feel that (right now) and if they do, they don’t feel it near enough.”
The pastor also spoke about the need for unity and looking to the Lord in these uncertain times.
“What we need right now is unity more than anything, but I don’t want unity if it comes with compromise. I want unity for whats’ right ... It’s not a political war, its a spiritual war, right now,” Isaacs said.
Despite rumors, organizers said they saw very little indication of counter-protests on Saturday and the event was mostly peaceful.
Earlier in the day, Kentworthy said he welcomed the addition of Black Lives Matter supporters to the event, saying he understood their point-of-view and hoped to bridge a gap between the two groups.
“We just want to make sure that (everyone knows the Berea Backs the Blue event) had nothing to do with being anti-BLM. We support their right to come out and march and do their thing. I have nothing against any of them. I understand exactly where they are coming from, and I know why they do what they do. This is not any way shape or form against them. Anyone that wants to come out can. I hope they join us. I welcome it,” Kentworthy told The Register earlier on Saturday.
While not out in large numbers, Black Lives Matter supporters were present for Saturday’s event.
While the Berea Backs the Blue marchers gathered in the parking lot of city hall, a large sign loomed just beyond them on the roof of Amy and Inness Asher’s home located just behind the police department’s headquarters.
The Ashers were joined by two other Black Lives Matter supporters whom they invited to join them on the roof to watch the march.
The large white sign on the roof read: “Justice for Breonna Taylor” in bold black letters. A Black Lives Matter sign also adorned a parked van near the home.
Amy Asher, who is running for a seat on the Berea City Council, said she felt it was important to have the sign visible to marchers as a reminder of the life that was taken by police.
Amy Asher said she felt Saturday’s march was a response to the recent Berea’s March for Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
“I feel like the Berea Backs the Blue is their answer to that,” Amy Asher said. “I think they felt the need to respond.”
“What we see is a more thinly-veiled criticism of Black Lives Matter,” Inness Asher said of the march.
Inness Asher also lamented the fact the recent Juneteenth resolution, which was brought before the Berea City Council in the same meeting as the Back the Blue resolution was not passed because many on the council wanted the addition of “all lives matter.”
More open discussion of the issues that affect every Berean is greatly needed.
“People either don’t understand what that means or they do, and both are just not right in today’s America,” Inness Asher said of the wording. “It denigrates Black Lives Matter… Black youths have targets on their backs and until you walk a mile in their shoes, your white privilege is going to hide that. Black Lives Matter doesn’t diminish anyone else’s life. Blacks want their lives to matter as much as anyone else’s.”
The Ashers said their close proximity to law enforcement has led to a unique relationship with local police and they also hope for more unity to come.
“We back the blue … we absolutely do,” Inness Asher said.
“We live right next door to them. We do support that,” Amy Asher added. “We also understand Black Lives Matter and the necessity of that movement.”
Inness Asher said he was glad the march was without incident and both sides can show support for their causes in relative peace — as it should be in free society.
“It was peaceful, and they had their say as anyone in America should have,” Asher said.