Blue ribbons blew in the wind over the Peace River on Saturday morning.
Drivers traveling the northbound Barron Collier Bridge connecting Punta Gorda to Port Charlotte honked their horns to salute law enforcement for their work and dedication to the community.
About 400 people gathered at Laishley Park to attend the Turn the Bridge Blue Unity March and to hear inspirational speakers, pray together and walk the bridge to support local officers.
“I support the law, not looting,” said Punta Gorda resident Christine Dutkiewicz when asked why she chose to come to the event.
Organizer Judy Ramirez thanked everyone for coming out on the hot, muggy morning.
“It’s so comforting to see all of you here today,” Ramirez said. “And it’s so important that you are here to support our local heroes.”
Many people carried flags and wore T-shirts representing various organizations that support law enforcement.
Tuesday Browning spoke briefly about “Blue Blood Brotherhood,” a nationwide nonprofit organization that helps families of fallen officers.
“We regularly donate bulletproof vests and backpack inserts to areas where officers were shot,” Browning said.
Gary Snow talked about Code Blue, an organization he started in Chicago in 2016 after two officers were shot and killed.
“They risk their lives every day for us, the least we can do is show them our support,” Snow said. “We really should be holding these kind of events more often.”
Snow said there is another gathering planned from noon to 3 p.m. July 5, hosted by Patriots for Southwest Florida, at Centennial Park in Fort Myers.
Jen Howes, another organizer of the event, read a poem titled, “What is a Policeman?” “The fact is that less than one half of one percent of policemen misfit the uniform,” Howes said. “They must be such diplomats that they can settle differences between individuals so that each will think they won. They must make instant decisions. They must act as a minister, a social worker, a tough guy and a gentlemen, yet they are constantly criticized. “
After a short prayer by True Heroes Wear Blue prayer warrior C.J. Grossman, attendees were each given a blue ribbon to take and tie onto the bridge. Organizers said the ribbons would be removed by Sunday night.
Ramirez said about 700 people responded positively on Facebook when she posted the event earlier this week. Two weeks ago, she organized a rally at the North Port Police Department.
Tammy Gant is a Port Charlotte native who helped organize the event in Punta Gorda after attending the North Port rally.
“I raised my kids here, and now my grandkids are being raised here and this community has always stuck together,” Gant said. “Hurricane Charley is a huge example of that. Our law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and first responders all worked together to help us through that and we want them to know that we recognize and appreciate them.
Ramirez said she was happy the event was peaceful and there was no negativity.