There was no chanting and some cheering as a sea of motorcyclists and people wearing t-shirts and American flags emblazoned with thin blue lines, along with those wearing an occasional military uniform, marched quietly through Southampton Village Saturday morning in support of law enforcement.
Several hundred people took to the streets for the “Back the Blue” rally, headed by the Red Knights firefighter motorcycle club. They marching quietly up Windmill Lane and then across Jagger Lane down Main Street back to the park before dispersing into the crisp September morning within about a hour.
Kenny Oliver, a firefighter and retired police officer from North Sea, organized the march, and at the outset in Agawam Park, he said he hoped those present would be peaceful. A counter-march, called “Black Lives Still Matter,” is scheduled to take place in the same location at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“If there’s anybody in here that doesn’t have thick skin, there may be people trying to antagonize you,” Mr. Oliver told the crowd at the start of the march. “Please don’t walk with us. We don’t need a good day to turn into a bad day. We need to be respectful of what we’re marching for, for what this cause is for.”
“This is a peaceful walk. This is not a counter-protest,” he added. “This is just to show much-needed support for the military, the National Guard and the police department.”
North Sea Fire Department Chaplain Richie King read aloud from the book of Isaiah: “then I heard the voice of the Lord say ‘who should I send? Who will go for us and I said ‘here am I. Send me.’”
“This is the call the men and women in blue answer, with charity and love for one another, to be the protectors of our community,” he said. “Bless these servants who give their time generously whenever called out.”
Many in the crowd also expressed a message of unity, but were reluctant to give their names to the media. Some agreed to be identified by their first names.
A man named Ryan, who said he was from Southampton and his wife is a police officer, said he wanted to support the police and the military, both here and nationally.
Civilians don’t understand “the training and the stuff they havre to put up with every day,” he said. “When you’re a police officer you have to go into situations where you’re a liaison between two parties, and somebody’s usually not going to be happy.”
Candace Harding Post of Southampton Village said she joined the march to support “the police, law and order and our quality of life.”
“The country is in such tremendous turmoil because people don’t obey the law,” she added. “If those men had obeyed the law, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Ms. Harding Post added that she believes a small number of outside influencers have turned protests across the country violent.
“I support our first responders,” said a man named Bob from Southampton. “They’ve been taking a beating lately and they don’t deserve it.”
A U.S. Marine Corps Corporal named Joe, who said he lived “on the island” and had four years of active duty service, said he and a fellow Marine showed up in their dress blues, carrying the colors, because the most important thing for the country right now is unification.
“We need an open dialogue,” he said. He continued to march for a moment and then fell back with one further comment.
“Myself and the Marine here are not here for any political reasons,” he added.
Southampton resident Linda Korte, who said her son is a County Sheriff and a volunteer firefighter, and her late husband, William, was also a volunteer firefighter, said she came to support both the police and “everybody in America.”
“We need unity and love for our country,” she said. “I know how much they give every day, 24/7.
I feel for everybody in the country. Compassion and love is what we need right now.”
She also doubled back later with an added comment.
“I don’t think the country is as divided as the media says it is,” she said.