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Police supporters gather in bitter cold on Independence Mall

Two hundred people turned out for a "Pro-Blue Rally" Saturday on Independence Mall, shivering in the cold and cheering as speakers urged the public to appreciate the dangerous work that police do every day.

Cort Rosholt holds a sign Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, at the "Pro-Blue Rally" on Independence Mall. ( ED HILLE / Staff Photographer )
Cort Rosholt holds a sign Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, at the "Pro-Blue Rally" on Independence Mall. ( ED HILLE / Staff Photographer )Read more

Two hundred people turned out for a "Pro-Blue Rally" Saturday on Independence Mall, shivering in the cold and cheering as speakers urged the public to appreciate the dangerous work that police do every day.

Protesters at recent rallies against perceived police brutality in New York and Ferguson, Mo., "don't speak for America," Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) told the crowd.

Noting that 115 police officers died in the line of duty in the United States in 2014 - and that 10 have already been shot this year - Toomey called it a "great day to be standing up for our law enforcement officers" who "protect us day in and day out."

With a theme that "All Lives Matter," the rally was in response to numerous recent demonstrations around the country protesting the deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers.

It also honored Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, New York police officers slain in their car last month.

Lasting just an hour, it was the first of its kind organized by the Independence Hall Foundation, a year-old organization that "seeks to keep people focused on the founding documents" of the United States.

Toomey was followed by Bob Ballentine, secretary of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5.

"I don't understand how police officers have become the enemy," said Ballentine. He denounced those who have made a "hero" out of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted and imprisoned for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

"Something's wrong," Ballentine said, and reminded his listeners and the public that "we are your neighbors" who "come without fail . . . to protect you from these 'new heroes.' "

The afternoon's master of ceremonies was radio host Dom Giordano, who blasted lawyers armed with cameras who "follow police around the clock" in order to sue them, and media who perpetuate "this false narrative that police are engaged in violent, lawless actions."

Many of the 16 speakers noted that law enforcement officers are called to approach perils that send ordinary citizens fleeing, and that their small acts of kindness or heroism often go unheralded.

"They're the firewall" that shields the public, said Rich Davis, founder of American Sheepdogs, a Chester County patriotic organization.

"They should be honored and revered instead of smeared."

State Rep. Steve Barrar (R., Montgomery) voiced outrage at reports that marchers at a rally in New York last month had called out: "What do we want? Dead cops!"

Barrar said he would cosponsor a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature declaring 2015 "the Year of the Police."

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, Philadelphia County Sheriff Jewell Williams, and several state lawmakers were also among the day's speakers at the rally.

Several officers of the Sixth Police Precinct, present at the rally for possible crowd control, voiced gratitude for its message.

"It was wonderful," said Beverly Duncan, a 17-year veteran. "It was great to see people out to support us."

"It's nice," said William Greco, a 14-year veteran. "It makes you feel good."

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