Hundreds march through snow in Oak Brook to support police officers

 
 
Updated 1/4/2015 5:06 PM
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  • Supporters by the hundreds turned out Sunday for the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland in Oak Brook. The march, which took place outside Oakbrook Center mall, was organized to support police officers.

      Supporters by the hundreds turned out Sunday for the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland in Oak Brook. The march, which took place outside Oakbrook Center mall, was organized to support police officers. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Hundreds marched through snowy conditions in Oak Brook Sunday to support police officers during the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland. The march went down Route 83 and 22nd Street outside Oakbrook Center mall.

      Hundreds marched through snowy conditions in Oak Brook Sunday to support police officers during the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland. The march went down Route 83 and 22nd Street outside Oakbrook Center mall. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Supporters carrying American Flags were a common sight Sunday at the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland in Oak Brook. The event was organized as a counterprotest to the many rallies against police brutality held in Chicago and elsewhere across the nation in recent months.

      Supporters carrying American Flags were a common sight Sunday at the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland in Oak Brook. The event was organized as a counterprotest to the many rallies against police brutality held in Chicago and elsewhere across the nation in recent months. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Samantha Veninga of Oakbrook Terrace was among the hundreds who marched in Oak Brook on Sunday as part of the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland to support police officers.

      Samantha Veninga of Oakbrook Terrace was among the hundreds who marched in Oak Brook on Sunday as part of the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland to support police officers. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Teri King believed it was time for a different message to be sent.

King took to Facebook a few weeks back to recruit backing for a community march that would support police officers. She envisioned it as a kind of counterprotest -- a response to the marches against police brutality that have taken place in the Chicago area and around the country in recent months.

"I just got to the point where I was tired of all the negativity surrounding police officers," said King, a Berwyn resident. "They do an amazing job protecting the rest of us, but they don't go yelling and screaming about it. So now, we'll do that for them."

The march, titled the Blue Ribbon Walk Chicagoland, took place Sunday in Oak Brook. Several hundred people braved the cold, snowy weather to express appreciation of the men and women who protect and serve.

The march stepped off from a parking lot at Oakbrook Center mall, moved south on Route 83, then headed east on 22nd Street, ending in a parking area on the other side of Oakbrook Center.

Marchers yelled "Go blue!" as they walked, and they held up signs that said "Blue lives matter" and "Blue protects, serves and defends us all."

Several motorcycle groups helped spread the word about Sunday's event. The Christian Motorcyclists Assocation served coffee and hot chocolate prior to the start of the walk, and members of the Patriot Guard Riders and Warriors' Watch Riders were in attendance.

Luke Pennings, a Clarendon Hills resident and a member of the Villa Park chapter of Wild Fire H.O.G. motorcycle group, said the bikers in his group didn't hesitate to show their support on Sunday.

"There are two sides to every conversation," Pennings said. "You can't let the actions of a few bad apples take away from the good work that the vast majority of police officers do every day. Right now, the media is dwelling too much on the negative."

Sunday's march took place at a time of intense public debate about the use of force by police officers. Recent grand-jury decisions not to indict officers involved in the deaths of two unarmed men -- Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York -- sparked numerous protests around the country.

There have also been some recent acts of violence against police officers, most notably the Dec. 20 shooting deaths of New York City officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn.

Chris Gacek, an off-duty officer in the Chicago Police Department, said he was pleased to see the outpouring of support Sunday.

"When you see so many people protesting the police, it definitely affects you," he said. "So this is a great thing they're doing."

Oak Brook police closed portions of Route 83 and 22nd Street to accommodate the march. Marchers expressed their thanks to the officers as they walked by.

"It's nice," one Oak Brook officer said as he helped direct traffic. "I only wish it was 90 degrees and sunny."

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