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About 300 attend 'Back the blue' rally in Marion

Organizer wants to show support for first responders

People hold signs, wave and cheer as passing motorists honk their horns in support during a Back the Blue demonstrate to
People hold signs, wave and cheer as passing motorists honk their horns in support during a Back the Blue demonstrate to show support for police officers, military personnel and veterans along Seventh Avenue in City Square Park in Marion, Iowa, on Saturday, July 25, 2020. According to organizer Gage West, there were around 300 people at the event. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — About 300 people braved 90-degree heat at Marion’s City Square Park Saturday morning to show their support for police, other first responders and military personnel.

Gage West, the 19-year-old Marion resident who organized the event, had a clear goal — “to show support for first responders and veterans who live in Iowa.”

He believes that goal was “greatly” accomplished.

“To be serious, I was shocked” by the attendance, West said. “It was like, ‘Wow, there are people in Iowa who support police officers. That’s amazing.’”

The event mostly consisted of attendees holding up pro-police and pro-military signs and American flags, with drivers along Seventh Avenue honking their car horns in support. Many of the American flags were black and white, with one blue stripe, a pro-police symbol. Cheering roared as Marion Police vehicles drove past the event.

Signs included “Defend the police,” “Back the badge,” “Honk for the blue” and “Blue lives matter.” One attendee had a Dr. Seuss-themed sign supporting police officers.

The line of supporters was about one city block long. One attendee waved a flag in the median of Seventh Avenue.

About midway through the rally, a man stood on the roof of his vehicle and played the national anthem through his car speakers.

Some participants arrived openly carrying firearms or wore shirts supporting the Second Amendment.

About a quarter to a third of attendees wore masks.

West told The Gazette said the event was not aimed to be an anti-Black Lives Matter event.

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While most signs were pro-police and pro-military and did not directly mention the Black Lives Matter movement, one rallygoer had a sign with “no white guilt” on one side and “Black crimes matter” on the other. In her other hand, she made a white power sign with her fingers.

West said he didn’t take issue with the sign.

“Everyone’s welcome,” West said. “I’m not discriminating against any sign.”

Hope Faley, a 17-year-old high school student in Marion, stood across the street with a Black Lives Matter sign, hoping to promote justice for Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville, Ky., police officers in March. Faley’s appearance drew mixed reactions.

One man threw a can at her, which missed by about six to eight feet.

West and another rally attendee asked the man to leave the event, which he did before returning later.

“Violence is not the answer to anything,” West said.

West, encouraged by Saturday’s rally, said he hopes to hold another rally in August.

Comments: (319) 398-8394; john.steppe@thegazette.com

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