Public turns out for ‘Back the Blue’ rally
By Madeline Scarborough
PARKERSBURG – Hundreds of people gathered at Bicentennial Park Saturday afternoon to “Back the Blue.”
The rally, which started with a march from Eighth and Market Streets, lasted an hour and was a way for community members to show their support for local law enforcement and first responders.
It was organized by Parkersburg Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl and Councilman Bob Mercer.
“All over the nation right now we see the riots, protests and disrespect towards those in uniform, but luckily, locally in the Mid-Ohio Valley, we are fortunate to have community support and respect,” said Parkersburg Chief Joe Martin.
Martin was one of many speakers at the rally. He was joined by mayors, council members, pastors, representatives of the West Virginia State Police and local law enforcement officers and many others wishing to stand up and share their support for the police and their gratitude for the people who support them every day.
Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce was unable to attend, but issued a proclamation this week marking Saturday as a day to honor local law enforcement.
Joyce previously said some members of council and the community requested a proclamation supporting law enforcement in light of protests around the country calling for reform after the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Gov. Jim Justice also sent a proclamation of support for “law enforcement officers whom everyday place their lives in harm’s way to protect West Virginian citizens from crime and corruption.” It was read by Roger Conley, chairman of the Wood County Republican Party.
“I wanted to say thank you, especially to our men in Vienna,” said Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp. “All departments in the county are blessed with good men and women; we are blessed with these men and women who are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year.”
Rapp said he was also thankful for all Wood County officers, because it is “hard to recruit police anymore, and the pay is not what it should be”.
“Seriously, we are very blessed with the support of the public here,” said Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens “We couldn’t do our jobs without each and every one of you.”
Stephens said he would hate to live and serve somewhere the public and local government do not support or appreciate the police and make it unsafe for them to perform their jobs.
All the officers who spoke said they were amazed with the turnout and outpouring of support from the community.
“This badge that we wear means a lot of things, but one of the most important things to me that it represents is your trust in us,” said Vienna Police Chief Mike Pifer.
Madeline Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org