Motorcyclists from Cleveland Bikers for Charity, some sporting American and “thin blue line” flags, revved their engines as they pulled up to the Back the Blue rally at Fort Huntington Park in Cleveland Saturday morning. The rally drew around 150 people showing support for law enforcement officers in response to growing sentiment against police across the United States. 

“Times aren’t good for them,” said Mike Hagood, one of the motorcyclists. Hagood used to work as a firefighter in Brookfield, OH, and said he grew to appreciate police throughout his time working with them. 

The rally kicked off with a live singing of the national anthem followed by speeches.

About a half-mile down the street at Cleveland’s Free Stamp sculpture, With Peace We Protest, a local nonprofit, gathered about 100 protesters for a march against police brutality and racial injustice in response to the Back the Blue rally. Protesters demanded justice for Desmond Franklin, a Black man who was fatally shot by off-duty Cleveland Police Officer Jose Garcia on April 9, 2020. 

“I don’t think blue lives exist, and I think Black lives are worth standing up for,” said Jill, a protester who painted her face blue and carried a sign echoing that sentiment. She added that being a police officer is a career choice, whereas being Black is entirely different. 

With Peace We Protest chanted and marched toward the Back the Blue rally at Fort Huntington Park, stopping at Public Square to lie down for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck before he died on May 25, 2020. 

Cleveland police officers set up a fenced-in perimeter around the Back the Blue demonstrators at Fort Huntington Park, and as With Peace We Protest approached them, one demonstrator shouted “Go home, f*****” while another held a Trump 2020 sign in one hand and a crucifix in the other. The groups remained peaceful, staying about 50 feet away from each other. With Peace We Protest demonstrators turned around and headed back toward the Free Stamp within about 10 minutes of verbally engaging the Back the Blue demonstrators.

With Peace We Protest demonstrators stopped near the east side of the Cleveland Police Department’s headquarters, and protesters congregated along a police fence with officers about 40 feet back on the other side. Protestors chanted and lobbed insults at officers, then moved to Cleveland’s city hall where Josiah Douglas, With Peace We Protest president, spoke. He and protester Jelani Palmer lit “thin blue line” flags on fire as people began to disperse. 

Contact Michael Indriolo at mindriol@kent.edu.

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