As vilification of the police has echoed from riots and protests across America, some South Dakota citizens decided they needed to send a different message.
The result: billboards that have popped up in Sioux Falls with a simple message.
“THANK YOU LAW ENFORCEMENT,” the billboards read, with a thin blue line across the middle of them.
The billboards say they are “paid for by your law abiding citizens.”
The billboards that have been showing up in Sioux Falls have a simple message: We support law enforcement. https://t.co/FG0dZGPVWZ
— ArgusLeader911 (@Argus911) June 30, 2020
The displays are the result of an effort funded by some Sioux Falls businessmen, according to the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader.
Kirby Proehl said he at first wanted to act on his own, but then found others to work with him and share the cost of the billboards.
“What compels me, and so many others working with me, is to say thank you to the overwhelming amount of ethical law enforcement out there, at a time when they need to hear it most,” Proehl said.
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“Police have a very difficult job. In the current environment, they have nearly an impossible job.
“So, let’s offer some humanity when it seems to be in limited supply today because I believe it to be contagious.”
Proehl said there’s a positive in sending a message to police that the community is not against them.
“And if law enforcement feels the compassion, I assure you that they will spread it too when they are out protecting our community,” he said.
The pro-police slogan has been displayed as one message on rotating electronic billboards, but will soon appear on standard billboards as well.
“It’s pretty basic but it gets the point across,” Rob Thurston, another businessman in the group funding the billboards, told the Argus-Leader.
The group said that as word spreads, more donations are coming, and there has been interest from other communities.
Thurston wants to see billboards like those in Sioux Falls across the Midwest.
“The goal,” he said, “is extremely large.”
The billboards supporting law enforcement come at a time when Sioux Falls police are under fire over the recent arrest of a juvenile, during which community activists claim officers acted inappropriately.
Activists are demanding the release of official video of the arrest, though the department has thus far said it will not release the footage, the Argus-Leader reported.
The department has also been criticized after executing a search warrant at the home of a black teenager who was not connected to a May 31 riot that police were investigating, according to The Associated Press.
“When police officers make mistakes, our community must fully understand and revisit the responsibility and power that we invest in our law enforcement,” said Laura Renée Chandler, spokeswoman for the South Dakota Coalition for Justice and Equity, a group of activists calling for changes to the police department.
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