A group of cars displaying the American flag, with blue lines painted across their windows, paraded through Fresno and Clovis on Saturday to show their support of local law enforcement agencies.
“Back the Blue” cruise organizers Katie Renard and Gary Castillo explainedthat the thin blue line is a symbol for police solidarity.
In the wake of recent shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., Renard and Castillo said that they felt it was important to step up and bring the community together.
“We felt compelled to do something, as our hearts were pretty heavy with everything that’s been going on lately,” Castillo said. “We wanted to do something to unify the community as well as to honor and respect those that have fallen, those that have answered their last call and can’t be with their families anymore.”
About 45 people drove their vehicles across the planned route, visiting the Clovis and Fresno police departments and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office before ending the cruise at Campus Pointe at Fresno State.
Renard said that the planning had been last-minute, and that many more were interested in the event. When they began their cruise at a Walmart in Clovis, many bystanders came up to show their support and ask questions about the event, and as they were driving through the city, Renard said they received many cheers and honks from other drivers.
We wanted to do something to unify the community as well as to honor and respect those that have fallen, those that have answered their last call and can’t be with their families anymore.
Gary Castillo, “Back the Blue” cruise organizer
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer was waiting for the group as they arrived at the Fresno Police Department headquarters around 11:15 a.m. Around 10 officers were there to meet and shake hands with the drivers, and children had an opportunity to pet one of the department’s K-9s.
Dyer commented on recent criticism of law enforcement, both locally and nationally. When national events take place, every agency takes criticism at home, he said.
“It’s so important that our officers hear from what traditionally was the silent majority, and that’s the people that are coming out today, to say that we support law enforcement,” Dyer said. “It’s so refreshing and encouraging for our officers, and they need to know that. Because when officers feel encouraged, they are better servants out in the field.”
Ashlee White was one spectator who came out to show her support. White said she has family members in law enforcement and wanted others to realize that officers are brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts.
“They all have families,” White said. “They are trying to protect themselves and the greater cause. They are a lot better than they’ve been portrayed recently.”
For Sgt. Bruce Owens, the turnout means a lot.
“For people to take time out of their Saturday to come down here and show their support, it’s very touching,” Owens said. “The last few weeks I’ve noticed we’ve had a lot of citizens just come up to us and shake our hands, kind of let us know we aren’t out here by ourselves. We do have the support of most of the community, and it’s all about us working in the same direction. We all want the same thing.”
Renard, in the end, called the “Back the Blue Support” cruise a success.
“I know it’s hard for them, so just a simple smile from them, it makes my day,” Renard said. “We are here for them, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Megan Ginise: 559-441-6614