After the July 2016 ambush in Baton Rouge, when three officers were killed and three others injured, some families with those in uniform felt called to do something to honor law enforcement — not just in their city, but across the state.
One week after the four year anniversary of that incident, several wives of officers in Baton Rouge organized an event to uplift law enforcement during a time when the profession is under heightened scrutiny.
Several hundred people gathered at the State Capitol steps Saturday evening for a "Louisiana Blue Rally" to show law enforcement support and honor those who had been killed our wounded in the line of duty.
Most of the participants wore blue, waving American flags or the Thin Blue Line American flag. Hundreds of motorcycles and scores of Jeeps processed into the event before the rally began.
After opening the event with a prayer and the National Anthem sung by American Idol winner Laine Hardy, organizers invited to the podium the 13-year-old daughter of Officer Jason Seals, a Slidell police officer who died after his motorcycle was struck while he was escorting a funeral procession in 2018.
"Some of the time, people don't think of how many of the officers that protect us are also parents," she said, her voice trembling. "You don't get to see the kids or hear their stories of how their parents' jobs affect them."
After recounting her father's death and her own emotional struggles since, she praised those who "run to the fight" while others are running away.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, law enforcement across the country and locally have experienced intense criticism and calls to defund their agencies.
Several speakers said police officers are not "bad apples," but public servants who care about their community.
"Law enforcement is a calling," said retired East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office Lt. Bruce Simmons. "There are bad people that do sneak in from time to time — maybe they don't mean to do bad, maybe they didn't pay attention to their training — but bad things happen. They're judged instantly, like every one of us. So when we do wrong, no one forgets. When we do right, no one remembers."
Simmons was among those injured in the 2016 ambush. He was accompanied by Cpl. Chad Montgomery, a Baton Rouge Police officer who was also injured.
Toward the end of the rally, organizers announced money that they had collected would be given to Officer Levi, the 7-year-old boy who spends his time raising funds for Angel Armor vests. Through the donations, Levi will be able to supply at least one law enforcement officer with a body armor vest.