CLEVELAND - It was a peaceful protest with the hope of bringing a community together. Public Square was a Sea of Blue Saturday as thousands stood united in support of all who wear a badge and of all who protect and serve. "The people need to see that the police are not bad people; that they're here for them. But they also need the support of the people,” Mary Jane Coleman of Cleveland said.
The peaceful rally was in response to recent anti-police protests led by demonstrators angered by the killings of young black males by white officers. That includes the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland, killed when investigators say the officer thought he was pulling a real gun out of his waistband that turned out be an airsoft pistol.
Rally organizers voiced a clear message that blue lives matter and that all lives matter. "It should never be race based. Underneath that skin you got the same person no matter who they are and if you would treat them the way you would want to be treated, it would make a big difference," retired Cleveland Police Officer Vonetta Fountain said.
From Public Square, the honor guard led a silent march to the Greater Cleveland Police Officers' Memorial. Their solemn walk coincided with the funeral of one of the two New York police officers killed last week. "Demonstrators in New York chanted what we want: dead cops. When do we want it? Now. That was disgraceful and utter disrespect of our authority and our men and women in blue," Nick Gresko, brother of fallen police officer Jason Gresko said.
Survivors of fallen officers spoke for those who can no longer speak for themselves and for the need for healing. "I pray every night that all of us may be able to find peace sooner rather than later," Tiffany Miller, fiancée of fallen officer Justin Winebrenner said.
Detective Lynn Hampton, President of the Black Shield Police Association saw the Sea of Blue rally as a first step towards a better relationship between the police and the public. "I think the community needed to know that the police do care about lives and this mending process I think is one of the first steps of reforming and mending relationships," he said.
Rally organizer Mary Jo Graves hopes that others follow Cleveland’s lead. "It would be awesome if it just started a blue wave across the nation of peace and unity, because it is time,” she said.