Back the Blue rally leads to conflict and conversations between two groups

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — People rallying to support local law enforcement downtown Fort Wayne met counter-protests at the Allen County Courthouse.

Around 20 people turned out to support a “Back the Blue” rally on the courthouse lawn Saturday afternoon. They hung around the intersection of Clinton and Berry Sts. while a small group of around ten Black Lives Matter supporters was near Main and Clinton Sts. One of the organizers behind it said on Friday that they wanted to show their support for officers and first responders in Fort Wayne. He said that he recognizes day-to-day interactions with police are not always positive experiences for people, whether it is a simple traffic stop or something more serious.

While he acknowledges that there are some officers who do not live up to their badge, he said that is something you will find in every job field and he and others in the community wanted to show local officers that the good work they do is seen and recognized.

“Based on the badge that they wear, we want to dehumanize them and that’s so unfair,” said the local organizer. “That’s just not an accurate portrayal of the majority of police officers around the country. They’re human beings, they have families, they have children, they have lives. They’re no different than you and I outside of that job.”

He said that while it is possible people who disagree will show up to the rally, he hopes that anyone who comes will be willing to engage in an open and constructive conversation.

“I haven’t seen anything that indicates there’s going to be a lot of issues, but we are expecting something. We’d be naive not to but, again, hopefully, if they show up, if they want to interact and have a productive dialogue, that’s even better.”

Those who showed up to support officers on Saturday said it was important for them to be there because they wanted Fort Wayne’s force to know how much some people appreciate them.

“We support the police because they get up in the morning and they put on that uniform and they go out there with the unknown, not even sure if they’re going to come home at night,” said Mary Wood, who attended with her husband Rick Wood.

Rick added that it was overall could, but that there was some conflict as the event continued.

“A lot of people have been driving by and supporting what’s going on,” said Rick Wood. “Unfortunately, the people on the corner want to come down and kind of interfere and block and take away our first amendment rights to say things.”

The two groups stuck to their respective corners of the sidewalk for some time, but the situation became tense when Black Lives Matter supporters chose to move closer. Roscoe Baker, one of the rally’s organizers, said he wanted to show his support for police because he values the security they offer the community. The driving force is that he wants his grandchildren to grow up feeling as safe in the world as he did.

Baker accused Black Lives Matter supporters started arguments with those backing the blue even though he said their rally was unrelated to Black Lives Matter.

“This has nothing to do with the protests Black Lives Matter,” said Baker. “It has nothing to do with it. As a matter of fact, they come over and got in our group and ain’t nobody said anything. Now, a couple of them have showed violence to a couple of people here.”

Baker cited a specific instance where a Black Lives Matter supporter tore a sign from a Back the Blue supporter and threw it in the street. Baker and the woman who was holding the sign said the action left bruises on her arms, while Black Lives Matter supporters alleged that the woman holding the sign had been pushing the Black Lives Matter supporter with it. Fort Wayne Police arrested the Black Lives Matter supporter in question for disorderly conduct. They described the situation as a disturbance.

Black Lives Matter supporters also accused the Back the Blue ralliers of starting arguments.

“I come down here to peacefully talk and speak to them and then we’re indulged with derogatory comments,” said Nyomii Rose. “My fight is out here to speak. Please give me an explanation on why blue lives matter because, to be honest, there’s no such thing as a blue life. Police, yes, but there are no blue lives.”

Not all of the conversations were heated. People from both Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter said that constructive conversations were had when all parties involved were willing to listen to the other side.

“Some of those people, we were able to talk to them and explain to them why we feel like their protest was a protest against ours,” said Tyonne Thompson. “A lot of those people were unreceptive to anything we were saying strictly because they already had their mentalities made.”

Minny Jackson said she did not go to the courthouse to protest the rally, but rather to try and understand where the Back the Blue supporters were coming from.

“I learned that even though they’re saying blue lives matter, they’re not necessarily saying that our lives don’t matter,” said Jackson. “The couple that I had talked to, they’re like we’re for you guys. We’re for what you stand for, we agree with you guys, we think that what you’re doing is a good thing but understand that not all cops are bad and I said no, all cops are not bad, I definitely agree with that but we’re not going to get anywhere and we’re going to keep cycling in circles if blue lives do not back Black lives.”

Baker said he would like to hold another rally at some point. Several Black Lives Matter supporters said if another rally was held, they would like the opportunity to speak with Back the Blue supporters.

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