A few other pro-police signs on display included ones reading 'America Backs the Blue' and 'Thank You Police Officers.'
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On June 20 of last year, members of the Walpole community gathered for both a car parade from the high school to outside the Police Department headquarters and a rally, featuring speeches from local politicians, police supporters and former Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael.
This year, on June 26, event organizer Jim Govatsos opted for a much more subdued show of support on the Walpole common. There was no parade or speeches, just some music being played, pro-police signs being held, and flags being waved along the street for two hours, while passing cars had the chance to honk their horns in approval.
“This particular police support day we organized really quickly, because we weren’t sure of the facilities we could use,” Gavatsos explained. “What we did last year took weeks and weeks of coordination. So this was a bit spur-of-the-moment, but we wanted to continue the tradition. It will be a yearly tradition of supporting our local police and law enforcement. We feel that they do a wonderful job and we’re just showing our appreciation for a couple of hours and creating an opportunity for members of the Walpole Community to come and show their support.”
Gavatsos said that unless a certain specific opportunity arose, like the chance to honor a particular police officer, this style of celebration would be the version more likely to continue, as “This seems to work well - the flexibility is there to allow people to come last-minute and support us.”
One major change from last year was the amount of police present. While police officers did show up, obviously not being across from the station likely hurt those numbers - but Gavatsos noted he had been told ahead of time they would be on duty and on details, so not that many could make it.
While anti-police sentiment seems to have lessened since last June, Gavatsos explained the need to show public support for Walpole PD. “I feel there’s still some criticism out there and that some police forces are being maligned," he said. "They’re talking about defunding the police in some regions. I’m opposed to that. I think we need to show more support for our police.”
Gavatsos noted they had received some pushback from people with concerns the event was too close to Juneteeth, but he declared that the two events had nothing to do with each other, and that they’d chosen June because they’d liked the tradition they started last June to continue - and because unlike July and August, in June, people are less likely to have gone on vacation yet.
That pushback was not just limited to the social media world, however. Like last year, a group held “Black Lives Matter” signs (although unlike last year, this one added another that said “support our social workers”). This year’s group, though, was not as close to the event; they acknowledged they weren’t looking to cause a direct confrontation with the police support event-goers. Rather, as Willa Bandler explained, they wanted passers-by “to know not everybody in this town is like that, and to know that there are some people they’re safe around.”
Bandler explained her cause, noting: “We feel that it is a little bit suspicious they decided to have this the weekend after Juneteenth. We feel that they never had rallies to support the police until there was a lot of activity supporting Black people who were afraid of the police, and it makes us think maybe they want Black people to keep being afraid to live in Walpole.”
While the venue may have changed, the passionate sentiment of supporting Walpole's police remained for the second iteration of what Gavatsos hopes to be an annual tradition.