“USA, USA, USA,” filled the air as more than 100 individuals showed their support for law enforcement and their disdain for new legislation they feel would jeopardize the police force during a Back the Blue rally Sunday at Halifax Marketplace.
“The silent majority has been silent for too long,” said county resident Tommy Perkins.
He and his dad, David, along with family member Bryan Lacks and wife Meghan joined the large crowd in Halifax to show they were not OK with the new legislation presented to the General Assembly in the special session about criminal justice reform.
“As you can see one of our flags is upside down,” said David as he pointed to the upside down flag held by Lacks. Meanwhile, Tommy held onto a Blue Lives Matter flag.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. National Flag Code, the American flag should never be displayed upside down unless trying to convey a sign of distress or great danger.
The Perkins family was just four of many who attended Sunday’s event who believed that their values were being threatened by the government.
“There’s a battle going on,” Mitzi Thompson, one of the organizers of the event and commander of the Halifax Militia explained.
But, she said the community can come together “in good spirit and be united” and show their support of law enforcement.
The commander explained that while local residents typically show their support of law enforcement, she said others in the government are supporting legislation that she feels would be put police officer’s lives at risk. She also said other parts of the world aren’t as supportive of law enforcement — most likely referencing the riots that sparked across the nation after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Those riots certainly weren’t the first, and not the only action calling for police reform. Senators such as Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) and Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) introduced legislation that would ban no-knock warrants, set statewide minimum training standards for police officers, including training in de-escalation techniques, place limits on the use of deadly force and would remove the automatic six-month jail sentence for assaulting a police officer.
Thompson, and other speakers at the event, such as chairman of the Halifax County Republican Committee Jimmy Wade spoke about the lack of respect that law enforcement sometimes receive from the public.
“Law enforcement is the glue that holds society together,” Wade said.
He explained that the police force and military “make everything else possible,” from the freedom to have private property to being able to sleep peacefully at night to being able to walk down the street without the fear of getting accosted.
Wade referenced the 60s, “back when we respected law enforcement,” and their families.
In some parts of the world today, he said some officers are “almost hunted down like animals.”
Wade said when officers go out on duty, they have to be prepared to give their life, and he said the public should give them respect for doing so.
If it wasn’t for law enforcement, he said the public would be “living like Mad Max…
“I don’t want to live like that,” he added.
Delegate James Edmunds also spoke about the special session in the general assembly, and his desire to always represent the values of Halifax County residents.
“When our values start to feel threatened, that’s when we start to rally,” said Edmunds.
He said current proposed legislation would “end policing as we know it,” and blamed the riots across America after Floyd’s death on a “few bad actors.”
The delegate also chastised the thought of having civilian review panels, one of Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed ideas for police reform.
He called the shooting of a suspect a “split second decision” by someone who’s had “rigorous training.”
Sometimes, he said, police may realize there was a “better decision” that could’ve been made but he doesn’t feel that it’s fair for citizens who weren’t there in the “heat of the moment” to decide the officer’s fate after a shooting.
He also mentioned the proposed legislation that could reduce an assault of police officer to a misdemeanor.
“Why would anyone subject themselves to that…with the fear of becoming a criminal themselves,” said Edmunds.
“What good are any laws without law enforcement to enforce them,” he questioned.
Closing out the rally, Thompson quoted scripture from Matthew chapter 5.
Versus 7 – 9: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
She also told the crowd that members of the Halifax Militia are working on getting certified in various areas such as search and rescue, CPR and more to help be a resource to the county.
As the rally came to a close, officers from Halifax Police Department, South Boston Police Department, Halifax County Sheriff’s Department and Virginia State Police mingled with the crowd.
“It means a lot to us to have the public come out and support us and support back the blue,” said Halifax Police Chief Stuart Comer.
“As always, its an honor to serve the community. I know on nationwide TV you see the struggles law enforcement have in some areas, but locally, we receive support from individuals, churches and community groups every day on the street. I know on mainstream media you don’t see that. To everyone that’s here, it means a lot.”