Several hundred people flying dozens of pro-police American flags featuring a single blue stripe gathered Saturday by the Riverfront Park clocktower for the Law Enforcement Support Rally organized by local pastors.
Pastor Danny Green, who founded Reaching Out Advocating Recovery, or ROAR, began the event with prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance, “because that’s just what Americans do, amen,” he said.
Green spoke to a mostly white crowd, peppered with American flags, MAGA hats, “Back the Blue” shirts and posters promoting Republican candidate for governor Josh Freed, who attended the rally. He said he preaches a message of unity and compassion for law enforcement.
Green’s life was spiraling out of control when police officers pulled him over for driving while under the influence, he said.
His wife Sherry took the mic to say police saved their family.
“I love the police department because they arrested him,” Sherry said.
Danny decried calls to defund the police, saying the world is getting “crazier and crazier and crazier.” The couple repeated that without law enforcement to “clean up the streets,” there would be “mayhem and chaos.” The crowd responded with applause and amens.
Green passed the mic to people involved in ROAR who said police showed them compassion when no one else would, before giving Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich a plaque to show their appreciation.
Knezovich, in his speech to the crowd, pointed to the traumatizing experiences law enforcement and their families must carry. He described responding to a call in which a 3-year-old girl tugged on his pants, looked up at him with “gorgeous brown eyes” and told him, “Daddy beat up Mommy.”
Knezovich said activists and the media forget these moments law enforcement face. He addressed the murder of George Floyd without naming the victim.
“You blame all of us for the acts of one individual. And that act was inexcusable,” Knezovich said. “And if you would’ve taken the time to sit and listen, you would’ve heard 800,000 police officers in America go, ‘That was wrong.’ ”
Knezovich said he’s worked with Black activists in the community, but that they aren’t focused enough on unity.
He said he’s shaken hands with Kurtis Robinson, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, and that he told Robinson he doesn’t like activists.
Activists “don’t care about people, folks,” Knezovich said. “They care about causes, and most of their causes aren’t worth caring about.”
Robinson, who attended the event, said he and Knezovich don’t agree on many points, but he’s focused on those in which they can find common ground and address problems on “both sides of the badge.”
“Just because we’re calling for accountability doesn’t mean we’re not supporting law enforcement, too,” Robinson said. “The reality is that the suicide rates for our first responders in our community are off the charts. We have failed them that way.”
Those calling for changes to address racial bias in policing, Robinson said, are not activists but the community at large, as evidenced by the thousands who marched in Spokane in support after Floyd’s killing.
Knezovich did not address acts of police violence in Spokane, instead focusing on calls to defund the police.
“Heck, folks, they never funded us,” Knezovich said. “They continually drop every ounce of society’s luggage at our feet and expect us to pick it up and carry it, and they give us nothing to do it with.”
A Spokane County budget breakdown from 2020 shows the Sheriff’s Office received $45,079,551 in funding. Overall, the county’s health and human services programs received $53,696,679. That money included programs like housing and community development, which received $5,959,498, and behavioral health services, which received $34,001,015.
Robinson said he agrees with Knezovich that first responders are expected to carry too much weight, and he said they should get more funding for training, not for military-style weapons.
Knezovich said the people who carry the burden of “things in my head I wish on none of you” are not just law enforcement but also their families.
He ended his speech with an anecdote about officers killed on-duty in Dallas in 2016.
“We get to see people at their worst, and man has an infinite amount of capability of doing very awful things to their fellow person,” Knezovich said. “It’s almost limitless.”
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