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‘Back the Blue Rally’ planned for downtown Riverhead

A “Back the Blue Rally” has been planned for the Peconic Riverfront next month.

The event is being organized by Gary Brodman of Riverhead, who said he hopes local residents will come out to show their support for law enforcement.

“This isn’t a counter protest or a protest of any means,” said Mr. Brodman, who served five years in the military police more than a decade ago. “It’s just a rally to support police officers. Anyone is welcome.”

He said he mostly had the New York City Police Department in mind when planning the Sept. 12 event, but said it’s not limited to any specific law enforcement organization.

“They are having a rough time right now,” he said of police in the city, where protests have persisted on a daily basis since late May, part of a national response to the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Earlier this year, Mr. Brodman used Facebook to organize a similar rally to support frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19. He started a private Facebook group that grew to nearly 2,000 members.

“I work for the Riverhead Town sanitation department and I was furloughed for about three months and I had a lot of time on my hands, so I wanted to give back to the frontline workers and the nurses and Peconic Bay Medical Center, and the local urgent cares and things like that,” he said of his previous effort.

“We did a lot of good things,” Mr. Brodman said of the online community he created. “We started fundraising for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance and Peconic Bay Medical Center and we got food out to them. The local urgent care centers, we got food out to them.”

The group also did a fundraiser for Riverhead Police Officer Robert Sproston, who was injured in a car crash while on duty in Calverton.  

“We raised $2,000 and gave it to his family to help with any medical expenses,” Mr Brodman said.  “It’s a great group.”  

Like the first responder group, the effort to support police also has a Facebook page. It’s called “Back the Blue Rally on the Riverfront.”

“These men and women put their lives on the line every day they strap on that vest and put on that uniform,” Mr. Brodman wrote on the Facebook page. “They patrol our streets knowing the risk while protecting our civilization.” 

Initially, the group was considering have people bring food to the Sept. 12 event, but they reconsidered.

“I thought, let’s just not do that and however many people do show up will help the local restaurants,” he said.

Mr. Brodman said discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated, and social distancing guidelines will be adhered to. Masks will be made available to those who don’t have one, he said.

The event is planned for 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Riverhead, including the riverfront park, has also been the site of several protests over the killing of Mr. Floyd in recent months.