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Hundreds of cars and trucks paraded around Anderson Saturday morning in a pro-law enforcement rally with partisan political messages.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham attended the event and told the crowd that the “radical left” can “kiss our ass,” a message met with cheers and applause. Anderson Police Chief Jim Stewart and Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride also applauded Graham and joined him on a small stage in the parking lot of the Civic Center of Anderson.

Stewart said the crowd is a welcome morale boost for officers because one officer anywhere in the country doing wrong should not cause people to see Anderson officers in a bad light.

“As if Minneapolis is in Anderson,” he said.

McBride said the Anderson area supports law enforcement so well that, in addition to more personal moments, it can be difficult for his deputies to pay for a meal at a restaurant because so many strangers pick up the tabs.

In a crowd of hundreds, people were packed close together outdoors for several short speeches before many left to join a vehicle parade. Almost no one wore masks.

The city of Anderson has a mask ordinance but it does not apply to outdoor gatherings.

Officers were some of the few who wore masks. Stewart said it is a question of judgement for people to wear masks when the ordinance doesn’t apply, and officers set an example by wearing masks.

The Anderson County Drive to Back the Blue event included the brief rally outside the Civic Center, along with a few vendors selling barbecue and Trump memorabilia and law enforcement demonstrations.

Event organizers and law enforcement did not have an official count of the number of vehicles in the parade, but McBride estimated at least 400 vehicles, and the majority with two or more people inside.

McBride said he saw people alongside the route carrying signs and flags to support law enforcement.

The rally was about showing support for law enforcement, said Cynthia Bruce, a nurse who lives in Anderson.

She said people need to support first responders, who risk their lives.

”We need people to be there when we call 911,” Bruce said.

Many rally attendees flew flags supportive of President Donald Trump, as well as American flags and Back the Blue flags.

It was not intended to be a political rally, said co-organizer Herb Nymark, chairman of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office Foundation.

When speaking to reporters along with the other event organizers before the rally got started, Nymark said unprompted that he was a believer in President Donald Trump. When asked if that meant the rally was political, Nymark said it may be impossible to separate support for law enforcement from support for Trump.

Graham said he believed everyday people had shown up and shared their politics along with their support of law enforcement.

McBride, an elected Republican, said most of the people coming likely didn’t know Graham would come, and he said he saw someone wearing a shirt supporting Democrat Joe Biden for president.

Law enforcement isn’t political and neither is support of law enforcement, the sheriff said.

”This is huge for morale,” McBride said. “It’s an honor and I’m humbled.”

The rally is expected to raise hundreds of dollars for the foundation for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and for a similar city police foundation, Nymark said.

S.C. Sen. Richard Cash and S.C. Rep. Mike Gambrell also spoke at the event, saying they would be working in the 2021 legislative cycle to vet any bills intended to reform police procedures in a way that would go beyond what they feel is necessary.

There is some reform needed, the state legislators and Graham agreed.

Graham, up for election this year, pointed to a reform package by fellow U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, also a South Carolina Republican.

Some of the first people in the parade line, Bob and Judy Dreher, said they both retired from law enforcement jobs, in several states and across several types of agencies.

They put several Back the Blue flags on their pickup truck.

“Law enforcement’s job is hard enough already,” Bob Dreher said. “Split-second decisions are made everyday. To have society come down on the protectors, the sheepdogs, we should let the courts handle it.”

A similar rally happened recently in Greenville and another is being planned for Easley and Pickens County in October, McBride said.

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