Organized by Jamey Canady via Facebook, the Back The Blue Rally included a prayer by Kevin “Chappy” Hynes, a Watkinsville police officer and chaplain, and brief comments by Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.
Those present waved flags, carried signs with messages such as Back The Blue, and intermingled with Sheriff Department deputies leaving work at the Thursday shift.
The atmosphere was celebratory and, at times, very loud.
Canady said the goal was to let the deputies “know that we’re here for them.”
Canady, with a bullhorn and a pole with a large flag in one hand, addressed the forming crowd at the beginning of the rally at 6:30 on Thursday.
|Experiment Station Road 7/9/2020|
“Basically what we’re doing here today is showing our love for our community officers here,” Canady said.
“We’re going to be kind of down here by the road,” Canady said, gesturing with the free hand toward Experiment Station Road. “Just everybody make sure you stay off the road.
“Try to social distance as much as possible because the last time we got blasted because we supposedly wasn’t social distancing,” he continued.
“But we’re not out here to try to battle anybody or anything like that. This is all about supporting them,” he said of the deputies.
“It is not an agenda. We don’t have an agenda. It is just about showing love for our community and what these guys do for us.
“These times are the worst that we could possibly imagine,” Canady said. “So, if nothing else, we can bring something positive to this community.
“And that’s what this is all about. If anybody tells you it is any different, they are telling you the wrong thing,” he said.
Canady also organized an event at the same location on June 21, and he told me in a telephone conversation on Sunday that he estimates that 40 to 50 people were present for that rally.
Canady, who lives on Barnett Shoals Road outside Watkinsville, said he has worked in law enforcement in the past. “Been there and done that,” he said, so he knows of the challenges law enforcement officers face.
“These are not villains,” he said. “They are people just like us.”
Canady estimated the crowd at the rally on Thursday was much larger than the one at the first one.
His estimate is between 125 and 150.
I am in the high risk group that Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered to continue to shelter in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I do not attend meetings or events such as the rally on Thursday.
Sarah Bell did attend and produced a video of about 30 minutes in length.
I have edited that video down into a series of clips, including Canady’s introductory comments, that runs less than five minutes.
The video includes some of Hynes’ prayer, but it is extremely difficult to hear. Bell was not able to pick up any of the brief comments of Sheriff Berry, who was off in a distance and behind a crowd.
The clips give a sense of the atmosphere and the activities of the crowd gathered.
Bell estimated the crowd consisted of about 100 people.