Around 200 people gathered Saturday morning in downtown Vancouver to show their support for law enforcement officers.
The rally at Esther Short Park, organized by Vancouver resident Leah Anaya as part of the national Bridge the Blue movement, was “not against anybody. It’s not anti-anything,” Anaya said.
“It’s just simply saying our people, Americans, overwhelmingly support our police, and we overwhelmingly want them defended, not defunded,” said Anaya, a medically retired officer whose husband still works for the Vancouver Police Department. “We support our officers, and we believe in them.”
Attendees carried signs with pro-law enforcement messages and waved flags bearing the “Thin Blue Line” insignia, an adapted version of the American flag that includes a blue line running through it to symbolize the role of police. (The symbol has been a source of controversy due to a perceived overlap with “Blue Lives Matter,” a phrase that emerged in response to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.) A few people at the rally wore hats and shirts showing support for President Donald Trump.
The rally took place in the south side of the park, along West Sixth Street. A few passing cars honked in support.
Rey Reynolds, a Vancouver police officer and Republican candidate running for Senate in Washington’s 49th Legislative District, used his booming baritone voice to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.”
He also led the crowd in a prayer.
“My Lord, we don’t like what’s going on, but you have set us in this place, at this time, in this location to do the work that you called us to do, and we will not run away from it,” Reynolds said, his voice carrying over a megaphone. “Let this spirit of lawlessness be destroyed. Let the spirit of violence be stopped. Let the spirit of criminality be stopped.”
Bridge the Blue rallies took place across the country Saturday, all starting at 11 a.m. PST. The organization was founded in 2018 but has picked up more attention in recent weeks in response to the national controversy surrounding policing.
The demonstration Saturday took place against a backdrop of the anti-police brutality protests that have continued across the country for more than two months, since George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, died in police custody after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes.
Just across the Columbia River, Portland has become a lightning rod, drawing national attention for its clashes between protesters and police.
Federal law enforcement officers have escalated their methods to quell the unrest in the city, and according to a recent report from Oregon Public Broadcasting, have started arresting and detaining protesters in unmarked vehicles. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf toured the section of Portland most impacted by protests this week, against the urging of Mayor Ted Wheeler.
One attendee at Saturday’s pro-police rally, Vancouver’s Terri Knight, said she thought it was important to show support for “the other side.”
“It was important that the other side sees this side, sees that the silent majority is rising,” Knight said. She carried a sign that said “Support the good blue of Washington.”
Eric Marshall, a Battle Ground man who wore a hat supporting Trump, said he “wanted our country to start healing.”
“We’ve had some rough times of late, with all the riots and such, and I think it’s important that we all come together under one flag.”