Crowd Comes Out To ‘Back The Blue’ In Southampton Village

A “Back the Blue" rally in Southampton Village Saturday morning saw hundreds of supporters gather to celebrate police and the military. DANA SHAW

A “Back the Blue” rally in Southampton Village Saturday morning saw hundreds of supporters gather to celebrate police and the military. Organizer Ken Oliver reported as many as 1,500 in attendance; others said the crowd numbered between 300 and 500.
A number of motorcycle clubs turned out to lead a procession from Agawam Park through the village business district. Motorcycles, in some places parked three abreast, stretched along the western boundary of the park on Pond Lane.

The Riders of Fire from Bay Shore, Fire Riders from New York City, Iron Medics 2 from Sayville, the locally based Red Knights, plus “A lot of clubs here I don’t even know,” Red Knights Past President Michael Davis listed before the Harley-Davidsons’ engines roared to life. Predominantly composed of firefighters and first responders, the bike clubs raise money for charity.

As a throng of supporters assembled at Agawam Park, Manny Vilar of East Hampton, a one-time town supervisor candidate and founding president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, stood with Assemblyman Joe DeStafano of Medford, a retired Suffolk County Sheriff’s office employee, and Kevin Duchemin, a retired East Hampton Village Police officer. He greeted Dixon Palmer, vice president of the Police Conference of the State of New York and retired PBA president from the Riverhead Town Police Department.

“We’re here to support law enforcement throughout the East End,” Mr. Vilar said. Noting that while the five East End towns all boast individual police departments, he said, “We’re one giant family.”

Ken Oliver of Southampton organized the event. DANA SHAW

Ken Oliver of Southampton, the event’s organizer, opened proceedings with brief remarks, thanking store owners that supported the event, offering a “big, big shout out to a great veteran, Bob Grisnik,” the owner of Southrifty Drugs, who donated flags. “Awesome guy,” Mr. Oliver said, adding, “God bless us today.”

“We don’t need a good day to turn into a bad day,” he cautioned, asking marchers to be respectful and warning against “agitators.”

“This is a peaceful walk,” he emphasized. “This is not a counterprotest. This is to show much needed support for the military, National Guard, and the police department. … God bless America, God bless you all, God bless this country, and I hope we can all unite soon and get back on track.”

Pastor Richard King of the Cutchogue Presbyterian Church offered blessings “on this community and all communities with open minds and loving hearts that we can live in harmony with one another … to make our communities all they can be.”

As bikers and marchers made ready to set off, Debbie Guerin watched from a park bench, a cane at hand. A member of the American Legion Auxiliary in Sag Harbor, she said, “I want to support the police. I want to back the blue and I support the military.” Clad in a pink hat and red mask, both inscribed with “Trump 2020,” Ms. Guerin was one of a handful of marchers demonstrating outward support for President Donald Trump’s reelection. Several marchers wore T-shirts supporting Mr. Trump, including one that said “Suffolk County PBA for Trump.”

Announcing plans for the rally last month, Mr. Oliver insisted it was not designed to make a political statement, but some signs announcing the rally were also marked with “Trump 2020.”

Most of the garb on display heralded support for law enforcement. One, decorated with a blue line read: “To some, this is just a picture of a line. To others it is a family crest.” Flags with black and blue stripes were carried by marchers, as were traditional American flags.

“BtB” was spray painted on the asphalt near the intersection of Pond Lane and Jagger Lane.

Attendees walked from Agawam Park through the business district before returning to the park.