Marchers support law enforcement
HOUGHTON — About 250 people showed up in support of local police at a Blue Lives Matter march through Houghton and Hancock Friday night.
The march was organized by Keith and Kylie Sever. Keith said it had been motivated by the nationwide protests and negative depictions of police officers going on since late May, after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman who knelt on his neck.
The final straw for Keith Sever had been the discussions about defunding police, in which funds would be taken from police departments and reallocated to areas such as social work or mental-health treatment.
“We don’t have issues in our area with officers or mistreatment from officers, so I don’t see a reason for defunding them,” he said. “And I think that their moods, from talking to some of them that I know, are down. They’re being attacked for no reason in this area.”
Protesters carried signs such as “Protect Our Police” and “Defend Not Defund.”
Randy McClellan of Chassell marched with a sign declaring support for state and city police, county sheriff’s departments and the Department of Corrections. A retired corrections officer, McClellan said he supports officers around the country.
“I just hope people defunding the police realize they’re fighting an uphill battle,” he said. “There’s more people in favor of keeping the police than getting rid of them.”
James Butler of Hancock, just off of work, raced to join the march partway through. Butler said he marched partially to return the favor to the Hancock Police Department, who had supported him during his Black Lives Matter protest outside City Hall in June.
Butler, who has law enforcement in his family, said instead of defunding the police, he wants to see more interaction between police and the community. Harkening back to his sign from a widely attended Black Lives Matter march in June — “Protect and Serve,” Butler said it applies equally to the public.
“In the same way we want the police to respect and consider us, we’ve got to respect and consider them as well,” he said. “That’s why I say it’s a matter of reciprocation. I have absolutely no problem with the police … If they need my protection or my assistance in regard to something, I’m there for them.”
His support extends to the departments in Flint and Detroit, where he spent most of his life; he cited the Flint officers who walked with Black Lives Matter marchers. But after five years in Hancock, he thinks the local officers are a better group.
“If I get into it with an individual out here, get into an argument or get drunk on the streets or something like that, I’m not worried about Hancock and Houghton police beating me up and killing me for being drunk,” he said. “They’re going to approach me, they’re going say ‘Jim, come on, let us take you home.’ To me, that’s protecting and serving.”
Also among the marchers was State Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, who said he wanted to demonstrate the community’s support for police statewide.
“I respect and appreciate our law enforcement across the whole U.P.,” he said. “I think it’s important to show them some community support, and as you can see, there’s a lot of it.”
The march paused at the Holiday station in Hancock for a group photo before proceeding to the park across from Hancock City Hall, mingling with local officers at both spots.
Hancock Police Chief Wayne Butler said it was impressive to see how many people took time out of their Friday night to support officers.
“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a lot of feedback, especially people coming by the office and stopping by, even sending food or vouchers for food and things like that,” he said. “So it’s been really good.”
Sever said he hoped the march could boost the morale of law enforcement across the Upper Peninsula.
“We don’t have issues, so I’d love to see their spirits uplifted and know that they have their community standing behind them,” he said.