Several area residents, along with City Councilor Shawn Varwig, participated in a “Back the Blue Wave” event at the I-5 overpass near the Canby exit Thursday afternoon, displaying flags and signs in support of law enforcement and President Donald Trump.
“We’re supporting everything that’s right about America,” said one demonstrator, Bob, who gave only his first name. “We support the blue. We support our American flag. We support our president.”
The group of about 20 were of all ages, including children. They waved American flags, some with a blue line, and signs favoring the reelection of President Trump. While a reporter visited, many cars honked their support as they passed by.
Only a couple “flipped me the bird,” one demonstrator noted with a laugh.
The event was organized by Martin Lackner, a Gulf War Marine veteran and Canby resident, who said groups of the same size or larger were doing similar demonstrations at four other overpasses as far south as Salem.
“We spread out so more people could see,” explained Lesley Roehr, an administrator of the pro-law enforcement Facebook community COPS NW, which also participated in the Police Solidarity event at Wait Park in Canby last month. “We’re just here to support the police. We really appreciate all that they do for us.”
Lackner said the group wants to take a stand against weeks of nightly riots in Portland that they say have damaged public buildings and memorials, destroyed businesses and put officers at risk.
“All this stuff that’s been going on for over a month now — it’s not solving anything. It’s just causing more division. People need to understand that this flag stands for all of us,” he said, holding an American flag. “This flag doesn’t care what color you are.”
The demonstrator Bob said he has two sons in the Portland Police Bureau, including one who volunteers in the riot squad.
“They’ve been tying officers’ hands, spitting on them, throwing fireworks at them,” Bob said of participants in the nightly demonstrations, which law enforcement officials have become increasingly comfortable describing as “riots.” “A lot of them are about to quit, because they’re just not able to protect themselves.”
Councilor Varwig held a flag provided to him by Lackner that displayed both a blue and red line — symbolizing support for police and firefighters.
“I’m proud to be an American, and I support our first responders,” Varwig said. “I do not support brutality in any form, but in times such as these, I feel it is important to stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us each and every day.”