By Harley Nefe
A Back the Blue rally was held in Boone at the Bibleway Baptist Church, located at 964 George Wilson Road, on July 18, which began around 1:30 p.m.
Back the Blue is an activism campaign focused on building community support for local police officers.
Hundreds of people showed up to the event and could be seen standing in a field next to the church or sitting underneath a tent or trees nearby. The church parking lot quickly filled up, and organizers of the event had to utilize another parking area further down the road and shuttle attendees in a van over to the rally.
Attendees included current and retired law enforcement personnel along with families and friends and local community members showing their support and appreciation.
Watauga County Board of Commissioners member Perry Yates was in attendance and said, “It’s just a beautiful day, and we wanted to come out here and thank our law enforcement officers and tell them we love them and appreciate them, and they do a fantastic job here. I think we are one of the many places in the country that are blessed with a great law enforcement and have been for many, many years. I grew up here, and I’m 57, and this is just fantastic. Our law enforcement has never been a problem, and we just want to say thank you.”
Also in attendance at the event were families of law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty including Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Deputy William Mast Jr. Angela Wall, Mast’s mother, spoke at the rally, telling her family’s experience with the loss. Eight years ago, in 2012, Mast was responding to a call in the Deep Gap area of Watauga County when a suspect opened fire. Mast was fatally wounded as a result of the injuries he sustained in the shooting.
A member of Bibleway Baptist Church who was in attendance, Courtney Orange said, “We’re backing the Blue. We’re here to support our local law enforcement and to gather together as a community and show our law enforcement that we appreciate all they do and supporting those who have supported us.”
The event was organized by Pastor Michael Greene of Bibleway Baptist Church and co-sponsored by the Citizens for American Foundation and BLEXIT.
Andrew Greene, son of Michael Greene, said to the crowd, “Citizens for America is dedicated to impacting the culture for Jesus Christ by protecting religious freedom, preserving our Christian heritage, strengthening families, defending the sanctity of all human life and broadening a biblical worldview through education and public policy.”
Greene further said, “We believe in teaching Christians in what it means to have a biblical worldview, speaking on Christian and cultural issues in the public arena and running constitutional principles and biblical values, equipping and mobilizing citizens and elected officials and opinion leaders to influence legislation and enact sound public policy in a manner which instills biblical values back in our culture.”
BLEXIT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of urban and minority communities by encouraging youth to seek and take advantage of opportunities in 21st Century America, according to its website.
“We believe that conservative values are going to be the thing that changes what has happened in minority communities right now. We completely go against what the liberal ideologies have said that Blacks and minorities are downtrodden, and there’s no way for them to get ahead in life because of white privilege and white power. We completely toss that idea out of the water; It’s completely not true,” said Arielle Chambers, national assistant director for BLEXIT. “You can do anything you want in this country with hard work. We love this country. We believe in our Constitution, and we definitely support our men and women in blue. We believe that they are unfairly treated, especially in these times.”
James Reidy, who is the senior event coordinator for Citizens for America, said there is a Back the Blue series occurring across the state. The one in Boone was the first of the series, and there are upcoming events in Charlotte and Raleigh.
“What I think our biggest mission here is is to try to unify the community. You know, the folks in uniforms have supported us for so long and have protected us, and we feel like it’s important to be able to rally around them and say, ‘Hey look, we are here for you. We are here to pray for you for your protection, for everything you go through every day,’” Reidy said. “These folks in law enforcement put their lives on the line; they leave their house in the morning or at night and their wife and children are at home wondering if they’ll ever see their husband or father or wife again. It’s something we feel is important to be able to rally the community and bring them together in a time where there is so much division everywhere we turn. We got to find a way to unify our communities and cities and towns.”
A few protesters arrived at the event and stood across the road from the lawn where the stage and tents were set up. The protesters held signs, some of which read, “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the police.” Throughout the afternoon, they could be heard questioning statements from the rally and raising their own voices.
In response to the protesters, a line of individuals stood at the end of the lawn of the church across the road from the protesters. They held blank paper over their heads to block out the protesters.
A few vehicles drove by the event, with either the passengers shouting or honking their horns in response to the day’s events.
A common chant that could be heard from the speakers and crowd at the rally was, “Back the Blue.”
There were many different speakers including local pastors.
“We’re here to show our support. Can you imagine what America would be without our law enforcement? My, what a mess it would be as we would end up with a lawless society,” Michael Greene said while on stage to the crowd. “Our nation is built as a civilized nation because it’s built on laws. But a law is only as strong as those who enforce them, and I’m grateful for those who are willing to put on the uniform each and every day to keep us safe.”
Michael Greene’s eldest son and pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Ethan Greene, led the group with the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, Jacob Ruppert, Nicholas Ruppert and Isiah Greene sung the national anthem afterward.
Avery County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy William Lee Buchanan was one of the first speakers at the event. President Donald Trump awarded the Public Safety Medal of Valor to Buchanan on Feb. 20, 2018 for his efforts to help rescue and save a motorist from a burning vehicle while he was off duty and out of uniform.
“Today, we’re living in strange times, and I thank you for Backing the Blue. As I talk to you, I’m really not actually speaking to the group here in front of me; I’m actually speaking to the group across the road,” said Buchanan to the crowd. “Today, we live in the strangest times I have ever seen in 25 years of law enforcement. We’re seeing buildings burned, stores looted, seeing the violence and the chaos getting its foothold in the cities and towns throughout America. The Scripture says Christ said, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ That’s what law enforcement is all about. Putting our lives in jeopardy for the lives of the people we serve, and I love serving everybody. I love serving the people in front of me, and I love serving the people across the road. My service is no different to you than it is them.”
Chambers spoke after Buchanan finished his speech.
“I was born and raised into a conservative family. My mother is white and she raised me with conservative, patriotic values. My father is Black and he raised me with conservative, patriotic values,” Chambers said to the crowd. “I shouldn’t have to identify my parent’s race or my own race to define my political beliefs or my religious beliefs. It’s ridiculous I even have to say that right now.”
Chambers further said, “I want you all to see that we have a culture problem. I’m going to go one step further — it is a sin problem. This is not about white and Black. This is about there being a problem with conservatives and liberals in this country not doing enough for people. ”
The keynote speaker for the event was Ron Baity, who has worked as a pastor for over 50 years, as a chaplain for the Winston-Salem Police Department and is the founder of Return America.
The purpose of Return America is to build a network of churches and individuals to educate, motivate and mobilize citizens in a united effort in promoting Judeo-Christian values; to educate and influence government in these principles upon which our state and nation were founded, according to its website.
“These precious men and women, they are patriots today. They are still helping to protect this republic. They stand today between good and evil. They stand today between light and darkness. They stand today between righteousness and unrighteousness,” Baity said to the crowd. “And every day of their life, they hazard their lives when they leave in the morning. They don’t know when they kissed their husband or their wife goodbye, if they will be back that evening because more than ever, it’s dangerous to wear the badge and to wear the uniform. But we got a bunch or heroes; we’ve got a bunch of patriots in this nation that are saying America is still a great nation, and America is still worth salvaging. And so, they go out and they put their lives on the line every single day.”
Baity further said, “It’s not time to defund law enforcement; it’s time to fund law enforcement. It’s not time to tell law enforcement to stand down; it’s time to tell law enforcement to stand up and stand up to the bullies who seek to change the topography of this nation. It’s not time to bully law enforcement; it’s time to arrest the bullies who are rioting and looting in this nation. It’s not time to discourage law enforcement; it’s time to encourage law enforcement. It’s not time to show disrespect to law enforcement; it’s time to show respect. It’s not time to make their calling more difficult; it’s time to lighten the load of these precious people.”
Pictures from Saturday’s event by Ken Ketchie