American flags featuring the “thin blue line” waved through the air, posters that read “Support Law and Order” were held and plenty of “Blue Lives Matter” signage was on display as honking cars drove by. According to Back the Badge California founder Jacob Shockley, who lives in Atwater and organized the event, the rally was so that law enforcement officers can “see” the community’s support rather than simply hearing it on social media.
“Just because there’s a few bad apples doesn’t mean the whole tree is bad. You just pick those bad apples and regrow new ones,” Shockley said. “Everybody slams that thinking, but it’s true and that’s what we’re out here to show.
“I seen (sic) all the separation between certain individuals and certain groups like Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter…it’s Back the Badge," Shockley said. " We’re backing the badge and everybody’s life matters.”
The demonstration was the fourth large-scale gathering to take place in Turlock since the coronavirus pandemic reached the Central Valley in mid-March. The events have included a “reopen rally” in May, as well as a candlelight vigil for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter march on consecutive days in June. Just as protests nationwide have done, the march that made its way down Geer Road earlier this month echoed the BLM platform of “defunding the police,” or reallocating city budget funds from police departments into community programs — an effort those in attendance at Saturday’s Back the Badge rally don’t support.
While Shockley stated those in attendance on Saturday oppose the “defund the police” movement, he does believe there’s room for reformation within the justice system.
“There’s always an option for reform. There’s always the option to relook at use of force policies and stuff like that...if we restrict the officers too much from not being able to use a certain amount of force, then that puts their lives at risk,” he said. “I think there maybe needs to be some reform and some policy changes. I’m not saying totally take away certain things, but there’s always room for change. Always.”
“There can be room for both. If a BLM chapter wanted to come and join us they could…I’m not against Black Lives Matter, what I'm against is the looting and the rioting and the attacking of officers when they’re trying to control things. That’s what I’m against — that’s what we’re all against,” he said.
Republican Congressional candidate Ted Howze said he attended Saturday’s Back the Badge rally to show support for law enforcement.
“Without the law, there is no freedom in the United States. There’s no freedom anywhere in the world and history has proven that time and time again,” Howze said.
Howze added that he’s supported all peaceful protests that have taken place in Turlock as of late.
“I’m a firm supporter of everybody’s first amendment right to express their opinion about what’s going on around them. As long as it stays peaceful, I’ll support that 100 percent no matter who the group is,” he said. “I just hope that goes both ways. We would like to see every group enjoy that right to be able to show support or even protest in the name of their beliefs and do it in a peaceful manner.”
Howze cited his time on the Turlock City Council, which is in charge of approving the City budget, as a reason he doesn’t believe defunding the police is a realistic solution. He said that police departments are in fact underfunded, and that stripping them of money would only leave less training resources for officers.
“The first thing we’d lose are qualified, experienced officers and they’d get replaced by people with less experience and less training,” he said. “I think having a discussion about anything that provides better services to taxpayers is a valuable discussion, but I think people before they absolutely jump on the bandwagon of a political talking point by one party need to understand what the repercussions look like in their own community.”