Despite significant backlash from online activists, organizers of a pro-police rally at City Hall want you to know that they will not be canceling the event. They just don’t want you to come. And they, themselves, might not be able to make it.
Earlier this month, the creators of a Facebook group called Thank you NYPD proposed a counterpoint to the protests against police brutality and unaccountability that have been occurring almost daily since the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. Using the hashtags #ThankyouNYPD and #BlueLivesMatter, the police supporters quickly spread the word about their upcoming event, called the #ThankyouNYPD Rally, which they set for December 19. The idea was to show support for the “BRAVE women and men who keep the streets of New York safe and risk their lives doing so!” according to the group’s Facebook page.
More than 800 users said they would be attending the event, but otherwise, the online reaction to the planned event was overwhelmingly negative. Activists quickly took to Twitter to poke fun at the #ThankyouNYPD hashtag and sarcastically “thank” police for beatings or unfair treatment. Others flooded the Facebook event page with comments against the NYPD. One activist told people online to troll the pro-cop group and “break their spirit.”
— Greg Krieg (@GregJKrieg) December 11, 2014
Soon, three additional Facebook groups planned rallies designed to challenge the pro-police contingent in person. (The organizers of the anti-police rallies plan to coordinate their efforts this week.) “We’re expecting a good crowd of people,” says Jose LaSalle, who organized one of the counter-protests, SHUT THE NYPD DOWN. LaSalle says his peers plan to do everything they can to drown out the police supporters, “the way they’re trying to drown out the voices of families who’ve lost their kids to police violence.”
LaSalle, who’s Puerto Rican, calls the event “upsetting.”
“As someone who’s been under the police brutality gun my whole life,” he explains, “it feels like a slap in the face.”
An organizer of the #ThankYouNYPD rally told the Voice that detractors are missing the point of the event. The group, which formed in August shortly after the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, was meant to share positive stories and “help people see the humanity in the job.”
But despite the backlash, the duo that has been planning the pro-police rally has stayed the course, insisting that the event will go on. Sort of.
After a weekend of protests that saw police officers assaulted and demonstrators leading chants about “dead cops,” organizers on December 14 started hinting at plans to call off the event. “In light of the recent news about police officers being hurt and the chants of death to cops, unfortunately, it should probably be considered to either delay or cancel the rally,” an organizer wrote on Facebook. “Our main priority is to show support for the NYPD, and not to put them in harm’s way. [W]e leave it in your hands to determine if it should still go on or not.”
By the morning of Monday, December 15, an organizer doubled down on the suggestion to stay home, writing, “I will heavily advise for your safety to cancel/postpone the rally. I CANNOT FORCE YOU TO DO THIS SO THE DECISION IS COMPLETELY UP TO YOU, if you do plan to attend there could be backlash so be safe.”
The comment seemed to confuse many users, who began to debate whether the event should be held. “Not to sound ungrateful, but we, the NYPD have our hands full already. Let’s not add pro cop supporters getting attacked to that list…Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said one commenter. “I will definitely be there, I don’t get intimidated or scare easily. From what I’m reading there is either a lot of lazy people out there or a lot of cowards,” said another.
When contacted by the Voice, an organizer, who declined to be named, insisted that the event would not be called off even though there were safety concerns. “I won’t cancel the event because people want to be there,” the organizer said in a Facebook message. “I’m expressing my concerns so people are conscious about their decision. There were talks of bringing little kids. People are still going to attend regardless…they are passionate in their support.”
But in yet another twist, it was revealed that the brains behind the rally may not even be in attendance at all.
“If I do not have to work that night then yes I plan on attending,” the organizer said, adding that the other administrator of the group will not be at the rally because of “parental” reasons.