In an effort to show support for local law enforcement, a Back the Blue rally will take place on Saturday at the Rockingham County Courthouse starting at 10 a.m.
The event is being coordinated by the Rockingham County Republican Party, local officials and law enforcement civic organizations.
Jennifer Brown, former chair of the 6th District GOP Committee and organizer of the rally, said Tuesday that the purpose of the event is to gather in solidarity with local law enforcement officers, as well as celebrate the sacrifices they make to keep the community safe.
“[The rally] is to show appreciation for the men and women who are putting their lives on the line,” she said. “It is for anyone who feels enough is enough.”
The rally comes days after the Virginia General Assembly reconvened for a special session Tuesday to address the biennial budget and Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed measures to advance equity, reform policing and protect the safety, health and welfare of Virginians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The push to pass police reform was sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died May 25 after his neck was pinned under the knee of white officer Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes, and widespread protests over racial injustice. Chauvin has since been fired and is charged with murder.
As The Associated Press reports, there were roughly 450 policing reform proposals introduced in 31 states, including Virginia, where Northam listed seven measures he wanted to prioritize during the special session.
And as discussions of “defund the police” continue to circulate, Brown said Saturday’s rally is for those who don’t agree with the defund police movement.
“It’ll basically be an opportunity for those who do support [law enforcement] to be around them and give that extra support,” she said. “To be an offset to the negative rhetoric going out national and in conjunction with the special session.”
Confirmed speakers include U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Lexington; state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham; Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway; Del. Chris Runion, R-Bridgewater; and Harrisonburg City Councilman George Hirschmann. Brown said Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson, Harrisonburg Police Chief Eric English and Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst have also been asked to speak but have not been confirmed as of Tuesday.
Brown said she encourages anyone to attend the rally, regardless of political background, as the rally will provide a chance for residents to meet with local law enforcement.
“This is not intended to be a partisan or political event, but appreciation for the sacrifice of law enforcement officers crosses ideological lines,” Brown said in a press release.
Brown also said she had received confirmation from county and city employees that the rally falls under the “expressive activity” exemption established in the recently approved ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.
The ban, which was approved by Harrisonburg City Council last week, went into effect Thursday and lasts for 60 days unless changed by council, according to city documents.
Brown said those who want to attend will need to practice social distancing, wear a mask and follow safety guidelines.
“This is a peaceful rally and expressive event,” she said. “Be respectful to one another and have a good time.”