By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
NAUGATUCK — Standing in the gazebo, David LaManna asked people spread out on the Naugatuck Green whether they would like to live in a world without police.
The answer from the roughly 40 people who came out for the “freedom rally” July 21 was a resounding “No.”
The rally was organized by United American Patriots, a group recently founded by LaManna, a Thomaston businessman, and Mark Dorias. The group is holding events in the state to support police in the wake of the national protest movement against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd at the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
LaManna said there is justified outrage for the callous act committed by Chauvin, who has been charged with murder in Floyd’s death. But, he said, the senseless actions of one man should not condemn the entire police community.
“The difference between a civilized society and uncivilized chaos, the difference is a robust police force,” said LaManna, adding that without a professionally trained police force the country would become a lawless society.
Speakers urged people to make their voices heard in Hartford and speak out against calls to defund police.
“If we don’t fight for this today, what else are they going to defund?” said the Rev. Ernestine Holloway, a Meriden resident and Republican running for state representative in the 82nd House District.
Holloway, who directs the Serenity House Elkanah Ministry, said there needs to be a return to community policing when officers walked beats and knew everybody in a community.
“Now, do I believe that we’ve got some bad apples (in police)? Absolutely. You come in my neighborhood and there’s some bad apples, and they’re the people,” she said. “Can we fix it? Yes we can, and defunding (police) is not the answer.”
She said the answer is for people to sit down and talk about their differences.
“Each community has its own language, its uniqueness. So, if we sit at the table and conversate about our differences and how things should be handled, then that’s the better way,” she said.