Samantha Hicks of Fresno says she realized after the July 7 fatal shooting of police officers in Dallas that law enforcement officers needed to know they are appreciated for their daily service.
So she began organizing a support rally with her friend, Eric Daugherty. Interest quickly grew from about 50 people ready to hold signs at the intersection of Blackstone and Shaw avenues to around 3,000 people advocating on social media for a community event at Woodward Park in northeast Fresno.
The community showed up Saturday evening for the Thin Blue Line rally despite the day’s intense heat. Hicks estimated the crowd, which gathered in the Shakespeare in the Park area where music stages, bounce houses and vendors were set up, at about 1,500. Both Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims attended.
For those that are here and for those who aren’t, thank you.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer addressing the Thin Blue Line rally Saturday evening
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Hicks reached out to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and Fresno Police Department to make sure everything was good to go.
“This is a more safe and fun way for everybody to kind of get involved,” Hicks said.
Help started pouring in from vendors like Ben Cunliffe’s business, Big Bear Apparel in Fowler.
Cunliffe and business partner Anthony Creek of Fresno designed shirts to hand out at the rally. The theme: Blue Lives Matter.
Police “put their lives in danger all the time,” Cunliffe said, citing the Dallas shooting as an example. “When authority and police were running toward danger, instead of running away, that was the first example why we should show support.”
Mims said she was touched by the rally.
“I think the message is that people understand there’s real support for law enforcement,” Mims said.
After 15 seconds of silence for fallen officers and a short prayer, Mims was invited on stage.
“If it weren’t for all of you, we couldn’t do this,” Mims told the crowd. “When we hear hate-filled speech, it hurts all of us.”
Dyer, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, also gave remarks. Dyer teared up as he thanked attendees.
“For those that are here and for those who aren’t, thank you,” he said.