The local Black Lives Matter organization is asking Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner to denounce a planned rally to support law enforcement and instruct his officers to not participate.
The rally is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. outside City Hall in downtown Bloomington. It’s being promoted on Facebook, but few people have RSVP’d online. Expected turnout is unknown.
Black Lives Matter BloNo said in a statement Sunday that its members will not participate in the rally or an expected counter-protest also being organized on Facebook. Black Lives Matter sent a letter to Heffner alleging that the pro-police rally’s organizer is a white supremacist. The organizer has denied that.
“We feel that it is your responsibility as the chief representative of your department, and as a public servant, to make it clear that the worldview of those organizing this event is not the worldview of the Bloomington Police Department by denouncing this event, and by instructing your officers to withhold their participation in this event,” Black Lives Matter wrote to Heffner.
The group added: “Because of the escalated tensions felt across the nation in the aftermath of the events in Charlottesville, and for the safety and wellbeing of our community, Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal is instructing its supporters to keep away from Monday’s event.”
Bloomington police issued a statement midday Monday in response to the Black Lives Matter letter.
"The Bloomington Police Department respects the First Amendment rights for all groups to assemble in a respectful and peaceful manner. BPD is aware of the event and will respond appropriately if needed."
Regina Noland, who is listed as the pro-police rally's organizer on Facebook, told GLT that the event is to show support "for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day."
"That's all there is to it," Noland said via Facebook Messenger. "I have never been racist and it's a sad thing that in America you can't say thank you without being called a racist."
The Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP said it would not be participating in Monday's events.
"In the wake of what transpired in Charlottesville, a rally such as this is ill-timed, insensitive, and has the potential to do more harm than good," the NAACP said on Facebook. "While it is good to support local police, what should be happening now is a stand of solidarity with the victims of violence in Charlottesville."
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