Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue: An interview with both sides

HOLBROOK, Mass. — For months people have been taking to the streets across the country and here locally demanding racial equality and a push for police reform following George Floyd’s death after a police officer knelt on his neck while putting him under arrest. We’re seeing renewed cries for justice after Jacob Blake was shot in the back in Wisconsin in front of his children. His family now says he is paralyzed.

While much of the attention around the issue has faded as the spring turned to summer, many may think the passions about this issue has died down. Well, it has not and even in the suburbs, we can see there is still so much disagreement around these issues. This became even more evident after a Back the Blue rally in support of law enforcement took place in Holbrook last week. During that rally … people aligned with the Black Lives Matter group showed up. What resulted was some yelling, pushing, some threats, and one woman even told one person aligned with Black Lives Matter, that she’d “kneel on your neck.”

Tim Galvin, vice president of America Backs the Blue, says they can monitor social media, but not who shows up to rallies.

"Yeah, that's uncalled for," said Galvin. "All we can speak about is our page if she had made a comment like that on our page, out the door, blocked, gone."

Rather than just report on what happened last Tuesday, we wanted to get some understanding of the two groups, learn what they want people to know about their beliefs, why they are so passionate, and if they ever think we can find any common ground as a country.

“This is not, this is not fun,” said a tearful Ernst J. Jacques Jr. “We could be doing many other things, I’ve never been to Holbrook before.”

We met with Jacques and Matthews Yanne Silva Costa, two men who say they have been to dozens of protests this year supporting black lives and will also be going to the March on Washington in D.C. Friday.

We also met with Galvin and the president of America Back’s the Blue who spend hours on their quickly growing Facebook group helping publicize different Back the Blue events that smaller groups may organize.

"Ultimately, it was to become a refuge for police officers, families, to give them a place to go to see messages of support encouragement and love," said Tim Galvin, vice president of America Backs the Blue. "We don't allow politics regardless."

Our first question for both groups, is why?

"I'm not stopping until we abolish every mindset and system that actively oppresses us," said Costa.

"The police need our love and support," said Anthony Federico president of America Baxter blue.

Jacques and Costa say they showed up with a few of their friends to peacefully give Holbrook residents a different voice, but were attacked verbally and in some ways physically.

"If that was us, acting in that manner, in those videos, how would we be perceived? Would we have even made it out of Holbrook?" they asked.

In talking with both groups, it became very apparent their way of thinking was very different.

“If you say blue lives matter, then you are totally against black lives. It’s like the opposite. So I can’t say whether that’s true or not, I don’t know,” said Galvin. “But we’re not blue lives matter. We’re Back the Blue. Again, any race of police officer, if you’re a police officer, we back you.”

"It's not about cops," said Costa. "Why do we have to make it about cops? A blue life is not a real thing. That's a sad person, a blue life. And that's honestly, most probably a black person in America."

"They'll get word of a rally and come out and do a counter-protest," said Galvin. "I can speak for America backs the blue, we don't do that."

"I'm frustrated, and we're tired," said Jacques. "I just feel like I have a moral obligation to do so. And I apologize for getting worked up. But it's just like, it's like, why are we even doing this? We know why we're doing it. But why are we doing it in 2020?"

The activists say if Back the Blue protesters want to support police despite some hateful people in its group, then they should be able to support the families of unarmed black people killed by police and other black families fearful of interacting with police.

"We're not going to these Back the Blue rallies and pulling up to these towns and saying negative things about the police officers in that town," said Jacques. "We're simply saying that we don't feel like right now is the best time to be having these demonstrations while there are still families that are directly dealing with the heartbreak that has come from the hands of police brutality, we feel like it's a slap in the face."

We did find some similarities. Both groups agree that not all cops are bad and that we need to look into what ways police can be reformed.

And when asked what would it take to move forward:

"To not be treated as inferior," said Jacques.

Both agreed to start with a civil conversation on the issues?

“Let’s pick them apart one by one,” said Galvin. “What can we do to solve this problem? And there’s going to be some compromise there’s going to be give and take.”

“There’s no way to completely bring everybody together,” said Jacques. “I just think that’s impossible. We are just all built differently with different thoughts and feelings. However, if we can get a good majority of people, just the bare minimum to understand when something is right and when something is wrong, that’s a good start.”

There will be a Black Lives Matter protest in Holbrook Wednesday night.

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