Law enforcement officers and Triangle residents walked side by side, some hand in hand, down Chatham Street on Saturday to symbolize love and unity just days after an election that deeply divided the nation.
Nearly 250 people came together to march nearly 2 miles from downtown Cary to WakeMed Soccer Park in a show of strength and community as part of the inaugural Cary Unity Walk, Fun Run and Festival.
“They’ve been doing lots of other marches lately in the news,” Alisa Wright Colopy, event organizer and president of Cary nonprofit Fit & Able Productions, said before the event. “So we’re going to be showing how here in Cary that everybody can come out and be peaceful and be together and enjoy all the blessings that we share.”
The event, which was the brainchild of Jimi Clemons of Cary Family YMCA, was created to celebrate residents working together to support first responders and create a safe and unified community. While event planning began well before this year’s election, fellow Americans’ responses to election night results were still on the minds of many.
Never miss a local story.
Clemons began crafting his vision for the walk two weeks after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked tension between law enforcement and some African-American communities nationwide.
“It may not be the answer, but it’s a start,” Clemons said. “You can’t make a 1,000-mile journey without taking a first step, and this is our first step of the 1,000-mile journey to just get back to loving people.”
Proceeds from the event will go to The 200 Club of Wake County, which provides financial help for the families of fallen law enforcement and first responders in the area, and Read and Feed, which provides meals, mentors and books to low-income elementary-school children.
We don’t look the same. We don’t vote the same, but we all want the same thing when it comes to our families and our communities, and that’s just to feel safe and be at peace with each other.
Jimi Clemons of Cary Family YMCA
Dozens of off-duty law enforcement officers and first responders from local agencies, including the Cary Police Department, Cary Area EMS, Apex Police Department and Fuquay-Varina Police Department, awaited participants at the end of the walk with police cars, firetrucks, ambulances and even a State Highway Patrol helicopter. Participants got to interact and learn more about the men and women who serve them before a 5K and 10K fun run commenced.
“We don’t look the same. We don’t vote the same, but we all want the same thing when it comes to our families and our communities,” Clemons said. “And that’s just to feel safe and be at peace with each other.”
Apex resident Megan Williams brought her three children, Brody, 6, Caleb, 4, and Tessa, 1, to participate in the walk in an effort to teach them to love everyone.
“There’s so much division and there’s so much hatred,” she said. “I love the meaning behind this walk to rise above that and just give love and encouragement and support to anyone.”
Organizers did not know when they began planning the event more than a year and a half ago that it would fall a few days after such a polarizing election. But organizers and participants say it came at a good time.
“With all the divisiveness we’ve seen nationally between local law enforcement and the community and then coming on the heels of this election, which clearly was very polarizing, I think anything we can do to bring people together and show that commonality and that common cause and that belief in one another does nothing but move us forward,” Cary Police Chief Tony Godwin said.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon