Back the Blue Tompkins County protestors gathered outside Ithaca Police Department on Sunday afternoon to show their support for the police department, which has been the site of several Sunday protests calling for portions of the department’s $13 million funding to be reallocated to community resources.
Back the Blue protestors began gathering at the site around 1:30 p.m. and were soon outnumbered by Sunday ralliers who had left Bernie Milton Pavillion to counterprotest the gathering. By 2 p.m. nearly 200 protestors and independent community members were standing outside the police department chanting back and forth at one another on the closed off thruway.
“Black Lives Matter.”
“All Lives Matter.”
Back the Blue protestors were mindful to remain on the sidewalks directly in front of and across from the station, as an active demonstration of their request that protests be relegated to sidewalks. Sunday protesters have been known to enter into intersections and obstruct the flow of traffic for 10–15 minutes at a time in an effort to create inconvenience and bring attention to the inconveniences of police brutality and governmental negligence.
Amid the confusion of callback chanting between the two groups, there were also speeches. One leader from each group stood up to share a point on their respective protest.
“I don’t know about 1619,” said one Back the Blue protester during his speech. “But I know about 1492, and that this is our land. We’re all natives here.” The two standing speakers at the time briefly hugged and were cheered for. It was announced that the Back the Blue rally would conclude after a playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“I’ve lived in Ithaca all my life, and it’s a pretty progressive, liberal town,” said one Back the Blue protester. “I just don’t see what Black Lives Matter(s) is asking for. Now [that] they’re known all over the world, what’s the end goal? And the riots need to stop.”
Many Sunday protesters left Clinton St. before the music began playing, chanting “Black Lives Matter” as they headed back to the Bernie Milton Pavillion. Some protesters who remained in the mix continued chanting against IPD, while the national anthem played overhead. One protestor in particular was quickly surrounded by a number of Back the Blue protestors carrying law enforcement and “Trump 2020” flags. A shouting match ensued and the incensed parties were separated.
Other remaining Sunday protesters who remained at the IPD location spoke with Back the Blue protesters about Black Lives Matter, the purpose of protesting and United States history before reconvening with the larger group at the pavilion. The whole encounter lasted an hour.
The Back the Blue protest follows 20 straight weeks of Sunday protests that have changed hands, names and leadership nearly five times since starting. Back at the Bernie Milton Pavillion, Sunday ralliers discussed the future of their protests, celebrated their unity and reiterated their continuing need to deconstruct systems that lead to oppression and inequity, even in Ithaca.
Two high-school aged local Ithacans stood up and spoke about their upbringing in Ithaca, and cited a concern they have about believing that Ithaca is solely 10 square miles surrounded by reality.
“I’ve lived in Ithaca all my life and I’ve always believed that Ithaca was this perfect bubble surrounded by reality, but it’s not. The same things that go on in other cities also happen here. Maybe not at the same level, but they happen. And my friends— people just don’t know.”