They changed the title of the event to the BPD Support Rally. The original title, Back the Blue, has national affiliations that some consider racist, said Geoff Chase.
The end time of the 3 p.m. event was changed to 5, leaving a 60-minute gap before the beginning of the weekly Friday Black Lives Matter demonstration at the same location. “I don’t think there would have been a problem,” Chase said. “We support Black Lives Matter; we want both groups to be successful.”
His fellow originator, Lee Lavi, added, “I don’t see it as one side versus the other. You can support Black Lives Matter and you can support the Bedford Police Department.”
“This is a local support rally,” Chase emphasized. “We want our police officers to know we appreciate them.” He emphasized that demonstrators from out of town will not be welcome/
Chase noted that earlier, he and Mark Bailey, coordinator of the Back Lives Matter demonstrations, “agreed that the overlap may be good for the community.” But after some concerns expressed by unnamed others, he decided to end an hour earlier.
Nationally, Chase said, “there are a lot of negative opinions of police right now and we just want ours to know they have our support.” Lavi commented, “Change can’t happen if it’s us versus them. We have to work together.”
“The goal is — just like any other group — we want it to be public,” Chase stated. “Some people don’t think this is the right time, but we have a good group of officers and we want to put them in a positive light.”
Chase said someone suggested that the choice of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks carries an anti-Islam connotation. “The reason we did that was because it’s a good day to remind everyone of the love for law enforcement and to remember support the heroes from that day.”
Officers “go out of their way to be around the community, to form relationships. Right now they are not feeling very appreciated,” Lavi said. Chase pointed out that when police officers leave for work every day, “They never know whether they will be coming home.”
Many members of the force grew up in Bedford, he pointed out. “They’re local guys who are friends with many people in the community.” Lavi added, “I know some of the things they have done proactively. We know they are doing their best.”
“We didn’t just throw this event together,” Chase pointed out. “We spoke with the Black Lives Matter organizers, the town manager, the chief of police and the officers, who were very happy that something like this is happening so they can feel appreciated.”