More than 300 people gathered on Saturday to show support for law enforcement in Des Moines. Whitney McIntosh, co-organizer of the Back the Blue event, said Robert Gamble, Hollie Davidson and she pieced the event together in about six days.
Originally there was a different organizer, but something happened and the event was canceled and all contacts were lost. The trio of McIntosh, Gamble and Davidson worked to resurrect it all week.
The organizers arrived around 8:30 this morning to make sure everything was in place. Others started showing up around 9 a.m. And, as the march happened, people joined throughout.
“Our numbers just kept building,” McIntosh said.
Prior to the start, Gamble shared the code of conduct for the day – supporting the police, not misrepresenting the police in anyway, not saying anything to anyone out of anger, just march.
There were a number of flags, two banners and even a bagpiper player.
After the code of conduct was discussed, the group said the Pledge of Allegiance and offered a prayer of protection both for those marching and the police officers.
Once the march reached the police station, Rick McIntosh spoke. Rick is running for Polk County Sheriff as a Republican. He did not speak as a candidate, though, instead focusing on what he thought needed to change as a citizen. He also advocated for more care for the police.
Gary Leffler said a few words as well, and then Dana Wingert, the chief of police, surprised those in attendance and came out to speak.
“That was amazing,” Whitney McIntosh said.
Wingert told those in attendance their support and prayers mean a lot to the officers.
“There’s been a lot of long hours, a lot of trying times for the men and women that work here and in law enforcement across the country. That pressure is felt by their families,” he said. “But having the support, like what we see here today, inspires us to get up, put that badge on every single day and go out there and do our very best.”
He said that character shows in times of adversity, and that the past months have shown Des Moines PD has some of the best.
Whitney presented Wingert with a plaque, which was handmade.
On a day in which hundreds of citizens showed up to express their support for the men and women in blue, they were also supported by those same peace officers.
The marchers gave cheers as they passed police and police honked. The Capitol police (state troopers) were there as well.
“Each street was blocked by police officers,” Whitney said. “Every time we’d pass, we’d get a big cheer and everything. It was so fun. It was one big community, the way it should be.”
There was one protester, but Whitney said it was peaceful.
“They held up a sign,” she said. “Nobody had any issues with that person protesting because that’s their constitutional right – protest all you want to.”
The day was made even better, Whitney said, because the Des Moines Register quoted her in a positive manner.
“That was quite impressive,” she said.
Plans are in place for another event in Iowa City.