Plans for a “Back the Blue Rally” on Main Plaza were shelved Tuesday after city police said it couldn’t spare the manpower to secure a large event during an already busy summer weekend.
D.J. Seeger, local businessman and Comal County Young Republicans treasurer, emailed city and county elected officials and citizens on the idea of a rally supporting law enforcement on Saturday, June 27.
Citing the event’s conflict with police duties Chief Tom Wibert declined an invitation extended to the New Braunfels Police Department.
“I got an email along with everybody else, and just looking at the schedule and
the size of the rally, it couldn’t be possible,” Wibert said Tuesday. “The last time we had a pro-police rally in the city, honoring the Dallas police officers who were shot a few years ago, the prayer vigil had about 1,400 people out there.”
Wibert said attendance at Seeger’s event would be similar, and staffing that event would have had to reassign officers from river duties and assign others on their days off.
“It would be sizable, with not only our supporters but maybe people who are not our supporters would show up,” he said. “That would put us in a counter protest situation and we would need quite a few people to work it.”
Wibert said because 5,000 people are on the city’s rivers during summer weekends, and his 140-member staff already 15 short, the rally would have created more problems.
“The only way would be canceling people’s weekends,” he said. “Right now is the busiest time of year for us … it would have wound up making things way more difficult for us.”
Seeger said his idea for the rally resulted from a discussion with friends about the national protests against recent police actions that led to deaths of black citizens throughout the country.
“Somebody made a comment about the need to counter the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests with something else,” Seeger said on Monday. “I said it shouldn’t be as a counter protest, something that joins with that movement.
“I suggested a ‘Back the Blue’ event that showcases police doing the right things, because all we’re seeing on TV news are the negative connotations of law enforcement. There are some really hard-working men and women here who support the community, they value human life and are not racists. Those are the ones we should be celebrating right now.”
Seeger’s email, sent around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, said, “It’s time for this community to rally together, unified as one voice, and show our support for the men and women of integrity who are not racist and do believe that all human life matters …
“As a community, we will stand with you, hand-in-hand, and show you that we appreciate your sacrifice and dedication to serve during these challenging times. We know that you’re not all bad and that you serve because you have a heart for our community.”
Seeger said news of the event was quickly welcomed by elected officials and other citizens who pledged their support. Wibert’s response, copied to others addressed in Seeger’s email, supported the idea, though without NBPD participation.
“I appreciate the sentiment that caused you to propose this event,” Wibert said. “Speaking on behalf of the New Braunfels Police Department we have no interest in such a rally … We are the people who will be called upon for crowd management purposes, and thus this event will force several NBPD officers to give up their weekend off to work this event that is supposed to be honoring them.”
Wibert’s response indicated 30 officers are scheduled for river patrols that day and that leave has been canceled that weekend and the busier July 4th holiday weekend.
“And we also cancelled everybody’s weekend eight days ago for a protest,” he wrote. “We are stretched to our limit, and to schedule an event that would have our people work even more would not be seen as a positive thing.”
Wibert added, “If you want to show your support for us, forcing our officers to give up their day off is the exact opposite thing to do,” he said. “We have found smiles, waves and cookies to be very effective.”
On Tuesday, Seeger emailed Wibert that his intentions were to “purely to honor our public servants and were not intended to be a marketing tactic” for his company or Comal County Young Republicans.
“I will respect your position and we will not have a ‘Back the Blue’ event,” he said. “In lieu of this event, I’d like to propose an idea for a civilian (does not have to be me) to host a live streamed interview with our law enforcement to talk about what has happened and how you all plan to move forward in serving.
“I think this will accomplish the same purpose but also maintain officer safety.”
Wibert said he’s open to that.
“Whatever he wants to do, I’ll be happy to help him out,” the chief said. “I’m just thinking about the officers and they just can’t work every day. We’re trying to make giving them time off a priority.
“It would have been great having some notice, and I’m not against having a (Back the Blue) rally to thank the police department — but how about us doing it in January? Right now is the worst possible time to do that.”