Pro-Police, ‘Reconstruct Police’ Groups Both Protest Outside Superior Government Center
The two protests converged to speak out on what they see as two very different sides of a police badge.
SUPERIOR, Wis.- Signs and flags, conversations and tensions filled the grounds of the Government Center as a group in support of Superior Police, and a group pushing to restructure their local law enforcement protested in the same space.
“We believe that there’s a lot within SPD that needs to be changed,” said Waylon J of the Expose the Gap group.
“Without them we’d have no one to call in situations,” Ethan Brown, co-organizer of the pro-police rally said. “I think it’s really important that we show them that people out there back them and support them.”
Chants of “Say his name: George Floyd!” mix with songs singing praises of law enforcement and the Pledge of Allegiance, as the two protests converged to speak out on what they see as two very different sides of a police badge.
“We wanted to communicate to the police that we love them, we appreciate them. We know that there are bad cops but I think the vast majority of them are here to serve and protect,” Rhonda Miller said.
One side said everyone should support local law enforcement regardless of whether they are a Democrat or Republican.
“I just think no matter what political party you’re in, I believe we should all just back the police cause they’re going to help you no matter who you are, who you support, and no matter what they’re there for you,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, the other side says the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other people of color at the hands of authorities show that’s not true for every type of person.
“It’s so disheartening,” said Lamarquita Leach. “Because this is something that my white parents that adopted me warned me of, that I am going to have to fight for my life and I never knew what they meant until now.”
“I’m 23-years-old and I feel like I’m begging for people to come to understand that not only is my life important but their life,” she said.
Along with the push for police accountability is a push for the structural reform of the Superior Police Department. “Including the budget, the way government officials act, increased accountability, increase in training, increase in mental health resources and training,” said Waylon.
While some signs of the counter protesters read “Defend the Police,” responding to calls across the nation to “Defund the Police,” those gathered at the Government Center say that’s not necessarily their agenda.
“This is to push a movement of we don’t want to defund the police, we want to reconstruct. I’m about reconstructing not defunding,” Leach said.
Despite occupying the same space, there was initially no animosity. Protesters against the current mode of policing passed around a petition which details their thoughts and plans.
As of Saturday night the Reconstruct Superior Police Department petition online has gathered over 500 signatures. It proposes”a decrease in officer salary of 10% over the course of three years,” and to take money from the Police and Liaison Fund and using it for mental health and social services, among other proposals.
As the petition passed hands, ideas seemed to pass through minds. Both sides agreed on a few points.
“We realize that there’s people on both sides of the issue it’s about people a lot of people are hurting and I think we need to acknowledge that,” said Tom Miller.
Another sight not typical at protests arose — both groups engaging in prayer.
“We just wanted to be unifiers, we both in particular wanted to make sure that we made contact with people on the other side of the opinions and just tell them that we love them and that we agree on a lot more than we realize,” Miller, who led the prayer, said. “But I still support the police, they have a tough job.”
“Everybody should try to understand what it’s like to be human and go back to have empathy,” said Leach.
While the protests stayed peaceful, some tempers did flare over what some called the disrespecting of the American flag, with members of both parties yelling in each others’ faces.
But ultimately both groups said peace and cooperation is the best way to come to a solution.
“I’m tired of having to fight and I’m tired of having mental breakdowns because innocent lives are being taken,” Leach said. “Y’know, I’m tired.”