- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) - A police dispatcher who organized a rally scheduled for Saturday in support of officers and invited 500 friends to it says thousands of people plan to attend.

Mary Jo Graves decided last Sunday to organize the Sea of Blue Support rally on Cleveland’s Public Square by creating a page on Facebook and inviting her friends. She said Thursday that more than 54,000 invites have been sent across the social media website and 4,000 people have indicated they plan to be there.

“I was hoping to get 100 people to stand with me at Public Square in support of officers, and it kind of blew up,” said Graves, who spent nearly 14 years as a Cleveland police dispatcher and the last six in suburban Brooklyn.

She said her campaign was prompted by the negative attention and protests directed at police recently. There have been protests across the country since grand juries declined to indict white police officers involved in the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York. The fatal shooting of a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was carrying a pellet gun has prompted numerous protests, including one that shut down a freeway at rush hour. Last weekend, two New York police officers were shot to death while sitting in their patrol car.

Graves, the sister of a Cleveland police officer, said she thought it was time to stand up in support of law enforcement.

“I don’t think people have a grasp of what officers go through every day or how it affects their wives and children,” Graves said. “They just pray that they’re going to come home at night.”

The rally is scheduled to begin at noon and move in a silent march to the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial several blocks away. Graves said relatives of officers who have died in the line of duty are expected to speak at the memorial. The event will end, Graves said, with people walking silently away in honor of the two New York officers ambushed last week.

Graves’ Facebook page has helped spawn another social-media-driven effort to tie blue ribbons around trees and utility poles to show support for police. Graves is asking people to wear blue clothing to Saturday’s rally to symbolize the thin blue line that police officers represent.

“It’s time they knew that have community support and that there’s more people with them than against them,” Graves said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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