“What’s the occasion?” a woman asked as hundreds of primarily African-American law enforcement officers, local officials and community members marched past her Miami Gardens home on Wednesday morning. A motorcade led the procession and helicopters flew overheard.
The occasion was the annual National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) march. This year’s event focused on collaboration between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“It’s noble what they’re doing and it’s NOBLE the organization,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert. “[The community] got to see black people operating at the highest levels of law enforcement.”
After meeting at Calder Race Track, the group marched through neighborhood streets, ending with a service at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Carol City, a neighborhood of Miami Gardens.
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Between the march and the service, NOBLE President Clarence E. Cox expressed concern about the violence in black communities — both in Miami Gardens and across the country.
“I was troubled when I arrived here when I saw the recent deaths,” Cox said, mentioning the story of Darin Williams, the 27-year-old man who died last week protecting his 1-year-old son during a drive-by shooting. “The issues in our country are far too great to keep killing each other.”
Cox also mentioned that NOBLE is against separating families at the border and expressed support for Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the U.S. District Court in Seattle, who on Tuesday evening blocked an organization from releasing blueprints on the internet of 3-D guns.
Despite these issues, the church service was largely upbeat. Attendees, mostly of law enforcement officers from across the country, joined in prayers and sang along to “Amazing Grace,” led by another officer in uniform.
“This is Miami Gardens,” Gilbert said. “It’s people who get up and go to work every day. Often, the actions of a few will bring generalizations of the many.”
Toward the end of the service, former NOBLE National Chaplain Barbara Williams-Harris delivered the “Blessing of the Badge,” saying a prayer over 100 badges that officers placed on tables in front of the stage. The Rev. Vickey Logan said a prayer for officers who had fallen in the past year, reading each name aloud.
“I cannot think of a better place and a better time to be in the house of the Lord,” Cox said.