WEST COBB — Police officers, their families and other Cobb County residents gathered over the weekend at Lost Mountain Park to share support for officers who faithfully protect and serve their communities.
The “Support the Police” saw hundreds of people taking a stand for law enforcement amid national protests in response to police-involved deaths.
The rally saw at least 250 people, according to one of the speakers at the event.
Remi Martel, a Braswell police officer and one of the organizers, said the gathering was intended for good police officers to see there are citizens who care about them.
“We’re not here to put down any of the protests; it’s just to show good officers we support them,” he said.
Some of the speakers were loved ones of police officers: an officer’s fiance and another officer’s mother.
Kim Hill, the mother of a policeman, shared a collection of stories from police officers’ mothers. She is the president of Blue Thanksgiving, which provides meals to law enforcement members on Thanksgiving Day.
“I make sure to call my son every day for fear it could be my last chance,” one of them told her.
Steve Gaynor, president of the Cobb County Fraternal Order of Police, said that officers worry about driving a take-home car and putting their uniforms on for fear of becoming targets in the current climate.
“Public safety has never, ever seen this before,” Gaynor said. “That wasn’t the way it used to be. People had respect for law enforcement. They saw that uniform and they knew that person was there to protect them, not to hurt them, not to have some racism, but to protect them. We need to get back to that.”
Later, he said that Atlanta Police officers Garrett Rolfe, who is charged with murder, and Devin Brosnan, who is charged with aggravated assault, in the death of Rayshard Brooks “did nothing wrong,” and neither did the four Atlanta officers who were fired after another incident in which two college students were pulled out of their car and tased. In fact, Gaynor said they were “actually in a riot and part of the protests.”
Among the attendees was Debbie Fisher, who sold signs reading “We support Cobb County Police” to benefit the Police Athletic League.
“There’s no support. The truth is not being told. I do not believe Cobb County is a racist county at any level,” she said. “I’m very proud of Cobb County Police. From the sign sales, apparently there’s a whole lot of other people proud of Cobb County Police.”
Phillip and Jakky Tucker of Powder Springs said they’re starting a group, called Black and Blue, to organize conversations between law enforcement and local residents to help ease the fractured relationships they saw between police and their communities.
“As a Black man, the way I see it, it’s almost like I’m walking around with a target on my back,” Phillip Tucker said. “And then it’s the same way toward the police...It sks for people to look at you and categorize you with everybody who’s bad on that side. We have to stop labeling each other, stop judging each other and give everybody a chance to be seen for who they are as a person.”
Jason Shepherd, chair of the Cobb Republican Party, said Brooks’ death was a tragedy that could have been avoided.
“If he had allowed himself to be handcuffed and taken away, he would be alive today,” he said, referring to Brooks attempting to run and grabbing and firing an officer’s Taser. “His fear took over. And he could have been alive today, maybe, if it wasn’t for (the idea) that if you’re an African American male, you’re so much more likely to be killed by a cop. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy for him.”
He added that there should be more community policing and education for citizens on what to do if they encounter police.
“Don’t run; don’t fight back. Nothing is worth your life,” he said.
Jamal Labbe, founder of Project Overwatch and another of the event’s organizers, said people too often see stories that are negative about police officers. His organization consists of veterans in support of law enforcement.
“I think anybody who’s willing to risk their life for their community or for their country, we should be giving the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “It’s a difficult job.”