ABOVE PHOTO: Mike Pence (Shutterstock)
Vice President Mike Pence came to the Fraternal Order of Police’s headquarters last Friday to let the police know where he stands with them.
By Denise Clay
Last Friday was going to be a big night at the Fraternal Order of Police building in Northeast Philadelphia, no matter what. The union hall was the site of a “Back the Blue” rally that attracted supporters of the Philadelphia Police Department from around the area. But the opening act for the rally, Vice President Mike Pence, got the festivities rolling with a speech that gave the police union the kind of lift that can only come from a president and vice president that you helped put into office.
Armed with greetings from President Donald Trump, Pence spoke to a largely mask-less crowd of about 100 FOP members in a way that showed them that he was on their side. At a time when cities around the country are re-evaluating what policing should look like in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, Pence came to assure Philadelphia’s members of Thin Blue Line that America loves them, no matter what you might hear on television, read in the newspapers and see in the streets. Equating them with healthcare workers and other first responders, Pence told them they had a friend. In fact, lots of them.
“At a time when the radical left is trying to smear police officers,” Pence said, “I know, the president knows, and I think that the overwhelming majority of the American people know the men and women of law enforcement are the best people in America. You are great men and women.”
Pence also addressed the “Defund Police” movement, which calls for monies that are given to give police duties that they’re not trained for to be cut from police department budgets and given to agencies or departments trained to do those functions instead.
He called that a “false choice” given to communities and even told them that it was a choice that presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden supported, going so far as to say the former Vice President considered police “the enemy.” The choice to defund the police is the wrong one, Pence said. The Trump administration intends to go in a different direction.
“Under this president and this administration, we’re not going to defund the police,” Pence said to raucous cheers. “The Blue are going to get more resources across the country. We can support law enforcement and the community. We’ve increased the number of police officers by adding 400,000 new officers through the COPS program, we’re prosecuting violent crime more than ever before, and we have a decrease in crime to show for it. You’ve done the work on the ‘Thin Blue Line.’”
One of the areas of policing Pence praised in particular was the work that police have done in apprehending those involved in police brutality protests who were involved in looting and tearing down things like Confederate monuments and statues of colonizers like Christopher Columbus.
While he decried what happened to Floyd, Pence felt that this was equally egregious.
“There was no excuse for what happened to George Floyd,” Pence said. “But there’s also no excuse for rioting and looting. Burning churches is not protest and tearing down statues is not free speech. We support the efforts of law enforcement to catch these criminals and we will prosecute those who vandalize our monuments to the fullest extent of the law.”
Pence also praised the administration’s record on police reform, calling Trump’s executive order that provided more money for police training and accountability all that’s needed to help good police officers keep bad ones off the streets.
While they weren’t allowed any closer to the FOP lodge than the intersection of Comly and Caroline Roads, Pence and his motorcade were met by protestors on both sides of the police reform divide. With one side shouting “Black Lives Matter” and carrying signs and the shouting “Blue Lives Matter” and carrying Trump 2020 banners, the groups and their supporters crowded both sides of the street as police on bicycles and on horseback tried to keep order.
Eventually, the police reform protestors were joined by a caravan of trucks from the group Resist Fascism and the pro-police protestors were joined by a group of their supporters on motorcycles and the White supremacist group The Proud Boys. The FOP later denounced their participation.
Author’s Note: The Associated Press has since reported that Biden said that police forces don’t need military equipment because it gives the appearance of an invading army when they come into communities.
“The last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood,” Biden said. “It’s like the military invading. They don’t know anybody. They become the enemy. They’re supposed to be protecting these people.”