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Hundreds crowd Mayfair street for pro-police rally

Supporters from across the city poured onto Frankford Avenue to share positive experiences with Philly cops.

Stacey Birney, whose dad was a police officer, of Northeast Philadelphia holds a sign at a pro-PPD rally at the corner of Frankford and Cottman avenues on Friday, December 19, 2014.
Stacey Birney, whose dad was a police officer, of Northeast Philadelphia holds a sign at a pro-PPD rally at the corner of Frankford and Cottman avenues on Friday, December 19, 2014.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

STACEY BIRNEY braved the cold last night to wave a handmade sign on a busy Mayfair corner.

"Proud daughter of a Philly cop" was scrawled across her poster board. And she meant it.

"I want people to start respecting police again," said Birney, of Pennypack. "People who criticize them don't see the bad parts."

Like early mornings and late nights spent worrying about her dad as he patrolled the streets. Or Christmases spent without him as he pulled a full shift.

It was hard, sure, but she was always proud of her father. And that pride is what brought her to the intersection of Frankford and Cottman avenues for the "Mayfair Rally to Support Our Police."

Hundreds gathered at the corner, waving homemade signs and commiserating about the positive experiences they've had with Philadelphia police officers.

The atmosphere was relaxed and casual despite the number of people, more like a street fair than a rally.

Uniformed officers there to protect the crowd chatted with the people who came out to support them, the blue and red lights from their patrol cars meshing with the blinking Christmas bulbs.

Passing car horns blared, a result of Birney and her colleagues waving signs. A police helicopter made a few daring, low-flying passes overhead to the delight of the crowd.

It was more than Donald Garvey ever imagined when he posted the event on Facebook earlier this week.

"It just spread like wildfire," the lifelong Northeast Philly resident said. "I originally thought maybe 10 or 15 people would show up, but it just blew up. I guess it just shows that this was long-needed."

Garvey stressed that he had no "hidden agenda" and wasn't trying to provide a response to the protests against the grand-jury verdicts in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner that rocked the city earlier this month.

In fact, he said, he organized the rally to coincide with Step Out in Blue, a national campaign to raise awareness and support of police officers across the country.

"We're strictly out here for the good cops who don't get mentioned in the news," Garvey said last night. "We want people to come out today and show the world that all cops aren't bad."

Hours before Garvey stood on that chilly street corner, someone on the other end of the city was working to spread the opposite message.

Vandals spray-painted anti-police rhetoric in the predawn hours yesterday on buildings in West Philly's Cedar Park section. The scrawled messages included "Cops lives don't matter" and "PPD killed Brandon Tate-Brown," the latter referring to the 26-year-old who was fatally shot Monday by police during a traffic stop while allegedly reaching for a stolen gun.

Brian Tait, of Mayfair, railed against such sentiment, saying it discredits the hard work police officers do every day.

"Police take an oath to serve and protect - these are the guys that are running toward the shots, not away from them," said Tait, whose father and brother are both police officers.

Tait said it's unfair for critics to pass judgment on police shootings when they aren't "entitled to the facts of the case."

And, he said, at the end of the day, people have to keep in mind that police officers are regular people behind their badges.

"Officers are just men and women who go to work everyday and do their best," he said. "They're human. They make mistakes, just like everyone else.

"But we need to give them the same consideration we give everyone else."

- Staff writer Jenny DeHuff contributed to this report.