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Nobody was ever threatened with a citation or arrest for impeding traffic.
That’s what Lt. Charlie Fields with the Cedar Rapids Police Department said on Friday night.
Michael Lambert, the organizer of the Black the Blue Rally originally planned for today (July 11), said he believed organizers had little choice in deciding to cancel the event after a conversation with Fields.
Lambert said he was told that anyone who walked into the street would be cited or arrested for impeding traffic. He was also concerned that police told him if they encountered counter-protesters, they should retreat.
As for the allegation that people would be cited or arrested for walking into the street, Fields said “that’s not true.”
Lambert had talked with another member of the police department while Fields was on vacation. Fields was not aware of that prior to their conversation.
“He told them they could do things that we wouldn’t allow anybody to do – it doesn’t matter what group it is,” Fields said.
When the concern of counter-protesters was brought up, Fields said he provided alternate routes. Fields said he did tell Lambert they’d prefer the rallygoers to use the sidewalk and obey the laws.
“Never did I say we were going to issue tickets or arrest anybody because they went out into the street,” he said.
As for “retreating” in case pro-police rallygoers encountered Black Lives Matter counter-protesters, Fields said it is simply the right thing to do.
If there was a confrontation and there was a disturbance, everyone would be subject to arrest for a public disturbance. Having a confrontation isn’t productive or supportive of the police, Fields said.
“This whole thing took on a whole set of legs because people on social media don’t know how to stop,” Fields said.
As for the conversation Fields had with Lambert, it was the same conversation he’s had with every other group.
“Now, when other groups don’t listen and go into the street, we have no choice but to block traffic for them,” he said. “If this group did the same thing, we would’ve done the same thing.”
It isn’t about a group, Fields said, it’s about everyone when it comes to planning an event like this.
“Never did I say they couldn’t have a march,” he said. “Never did I say they’d go to jail if they get into the streets.”
Fields maintains he strictly advised that if a confrontation ensued, and the group decided to stand its ground and fight, police would show up and if the groups did not disperse, they’d all get charged.
“Never do we condone people breaking the law,” he said. “We wouldn’t do that as a law enforcement agency.”
Fields is confident that if Lambert had used an alternate route and kept it private until the event, the counter-protesters would have never had an opportunity to confront the rallygoers.
Officers have dealt with these events “way too long already,” Fields said.
“This costs taxpayers money every time this happens,” he said. “This isn’t done for free.”
He said Cedar Rapids has been successful because the police department doesn’t come out in a big show of force.
“We do our jobs the way we’re supposed to do it – professional,” he said. “Let the public have their say. Everybody has the right to have their say.”
As for the potential confrontation, Fields firmly believes in flight over fight.
“It doesn’t help the cause,” he said. “A common-sense person who comes up against opposition would just go away. It’s not worth the fight. It’s not worth us having to come out there and deal with it. I understand everybody has the right to speech, but you don’t have the right to break the law. Common sense has to prevail. Sometimes the better part of valor is just to walk away.”
So, after Fields made a simple phone call to check in with Lambert, he found out a day later the rally was off.
“I’m a veteran. I served my country. It sickened me (Thursday) the guys decided they didn’t want to do this because they didn’t like the conversation,” Fields said. “I called him because I wanted to make sure we were all on the same sheet of music. It’s hurtful (that the event was canceled). I’m a veteran and I appreciate their support. But I also appreciate the fact that I have to do my job and make sure it is safe.”
As for Lambert saying he was told the Cedar Rapids Police Department wasn’t planning on having extra officers on duty or in the area, Fields said he wouldn’t give out operational details.
“We’re not going out there and having a show of force,” Fields said. “We’re going to allow people to have their say.”