A post shared by the Southampton Town PBA on social media invites the community to a “Back the Blue” rally at Agawam Park in Southampton Village on Labor Day weekend.
Beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 5, the rally is designed, according to the posting, “to show much needed support for all police and law enforcement agencies as well as our armed forces.
“This is long overdue and needs to be addressed immediately, “ it continues. “Without all these brave and heroic men and women that keep our communities safe and defend our freedom day in and day out without hesitation, it is time to say Thank You!”
It encourages attendees to wear blue, lists a route through the Main Street business district, and suggests interested parties email a group called Patriots of America.
A person who called himself, alternately, Johnny Law and Tom Miranda, replied to an email inquiry from The Press. He declined to offer his real name.
He said “a bunch of people” coordinated the event because, “The whole feeling is, police departments and law enforcement in general feel like they’re not getting a fair shake, and their families feel the same way.”
He said he was declining to identify himself out of fear for his safety and said the rally was planned because “We don’t need out of control crowds and buildings burned down and we don’t need looting.” The “current social situation” fueled the desire for a rally, he said.
There were over a half dozen rallies that drew thousands of protesters throughout Southampton and East Hampton Towns in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer in May. Unlike the unrest in the wake of some Black Lives Matter protests elsewhere in the country, the rallies locally were marked by peace and even good will toward local officers.
Erik Breitwieser, president of the Southampton Town Police PBA agreed. “We’re very fortunate on the East End. Our community and law enforcement have a great relationship,” he said.
When it was pointed out to “Johnny Law” that there were no houses burned or businesses looted during all the protests on the East End, he said, the goal of the Back the Blue rally was “to not have it come here.”
The post includes a banner that says “Take Back America,” a slogan often associated with right wing supporters of Donald Trump. “Johnny Law” insisted the rally was not a political effort. Asked who the Patriots of America — which does not have a website or social media presence — want to take America back from, he deflected, saying instead, “We need to be one country, we need to be united.”
The spokesman emphasized the rally is designed as a day for people to come out and support their local police department. He said there would be “many” members of the local policemen’s benevolent associations on hand that day.
Mr. Breitwieser, who shared the event notice on his organization’s Instagram page, said he couldn’t remember who sent it to him and didn’t know the organizers.
“It’s not a political rally, I truly hope it’s not. I hope it is purely support for the community,” he said, adding he was “100 percent” certain none of the area PBAs were affiliated with the event and that he wished he could have a conversation with the organizers “to make sure of their intentions.”
“Back the Blue” rallies on Long Island in recent weeks drew massive crowds of participants as well as counter protesters. In Eisenhower Park on July 25, chants of “All Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter” rang through the air in Westbury, with scuffles between opposing groups marring the gathering. Controversial singer Ted Nugent was slated to appear but backed out amid backlash and a reminder from Governor Andrew Cuomo about the executive order mandating a 14-day quarantine period for those arriving in New York from certain locations.
Other rallies were held in Port Jefferson, Wantagh, and Sayville, with participants decrying what they see as an anti-police movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
No gathering permit was filed for the September 5 rally. Under the governor’s current executive order banning gatherings of over 50 people, such a request could not legally be approved.