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More than 100 'back the blue' at rally in Fort Worth, oppose defunding police

Fort Worth Star-Telegram logoFort Worth Star-Telegram 8/8/2020 By Jack Howland, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Emily Garcia, 43, came to a Back the Blue rally in Fort Worth on Saturday because she believes the work her brother does as a police officer in the city is important.

She joined more than 100 other people on the front steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse in the sweltering afternoon heat, making up a crowd filled with American flags, leather jackets and clothing bearing the name of President Donald Trump. The event, called Bikers Backing the Blue, began with dozens of people riding in a caravan of motorcycles from Mansfield to the courthouse. It ended with them revving their engines before leaving.

There were no counter-protesters at the rally, which was aimed at opposing the calls for major police reform or defunding that have emerged at Black Lives Matter protests since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May. The protest Saturday came after a Back the Blue event in Dallas last Sunday took a controversial turn when the group pulled into a predominantly black church that displayed a Black Lives Matter sign.

Garcia, who also has cousins who are police officers, said she wishes counter-protesters had been there Saturday only so they could listen to the message. She believes recent calls for police defunding have been “absolutely ridiculous.”

“To me, there’s a different agenda. It has nothing to do with bad police,” she said. “I don’t even think they know what they’re fighting about anymore.”

The Back the Blue rally was described by the organizer, Michael Lowthorp, and attendees as not being conservative or liberal. Still, there were plenty of signs it was right-leaning. That includes the shows of support for Trump — from Make America Great Again paraphernalia to a large Trump 2020 banner — to the one man holding a sign reading, “Hillary is Satan.” People frequently chanted “law and order.”

Only a few people wore face masks as protection amid the coronavirus pandemic, as noted by some on social media.

There was a concurrent demonstration going on Saturday in front of the courthouse with dozens of people, many of whom chanted, “Save the children.” They were protesting what they said is the underrepresented issue of child sex trafficking in Texas.

“It’s been going on, it’s been covered up,” said Sandra Dishman, of Burleson. “They’re sick of it.”

Lowthorp said the bikers didn’t know about the other demonstration but they supported its message. Dishman said they felt the same way.

Their demonstrations unfolded Saturday as protests have continued across Fort Worth long after the May 25 killing of George Floyd. On July 18, about 15 to 20 people marched through West Seventh Street pushing a casket to represent all of the Black people killed by police.

Speaking into a microphone at the top of the courthouse steps on Saturday, Lowthorp said defunding the police would lead to a national police force, which is reminiscent of “Nazi Germany.” He noted in his speech there are “bad cops,” and said “you’ve probably met one or two.” But it’s not an institutional problem, he said.

Lowthorp told the Star-Telegram their group didn’t want controversy on Saturday, and intentionally tried to keep the event “under wraps.” There was a Facebook event with information but not much conversation about it elsewhere on social media.

He wanted to keep away people who were in opposition to them, he said.

“I fail to see what’s wrong in supporting our police officers,” he said. “I cannot imagine a society without cops.”

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