When the “Back the Blue Rally” was first announced for September 5 in Southampton Village the organizer chose to not to release his name given safety concerns. But because of comments on social media that aligned the rally to a white nationalist hate group, he decided to come forward in an effort to quell any misconceptions.
His name is Kenny Oliver and he is a former police officer who worked for the New York City Police Department and the Southampton Town Police Department, before retiring about a decade ago.
Oliver, who lives in North Sea and sat down for an interview on Saturday, said that after the response on social media, he thought about calling off the rally, but ultimately, “I didn’t want to cancel for the military and the law enforcement.”
The rally was meant as an opportunity to show support for police officers after a divisive summer. It is coined “Back the Blue,” but it is not just to support law enforcement, who have been subjected to “so much anti, hate-rhetoric,” he said, but also the military. He feels horrible that Memorial Day could not be observed as it usually is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and suspects the same may be true for Veterans Day come November. “All I want to say is thank you,” he said.
Some suggested the organizer was connected to a white nationalist hate group because of the email address on the rally’s flyer — PatriotsofAmerica@aol.com. He said he created the email address just for organizing the rally so that he did not have to give out his personal address. When he went to make one, he said he had a hard time finding something that was not already taken. “There was nothing that even came close to ‘Back the Blue’ or ‘support the military’ at AOL,” he explained. “I wanted Patriots of America because, like I say, I consider myself a patriot.”
Only four people ever even reached out to him through the email address, two of whom were reporters, he said. Those on social media just have “a preconceived notion of who was running it and how bad it was going to be.”
Those who know him know his intent, he said. “What’s the worst thing [they can say]?,” he said, “‘He voted for Trump and he drinks beer’,” he said with a laugh. “My reputation speaks for himself.”
Oliver, a transit cop with the NYPD, worked in East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville for 13 years, starting in the late 1980s. Those were rough neighborhoods then, during the height of the crack epidemic when crime was prevalent and the recidivism rates were high. He recalled a woman coming off the train at New Lots Avenue stopped and said to him, “‘Thank you for being here.’ That means everything in the world, man.”
After September 11, he spent 10 months at Ground Zero as part of the search and recovery effort. The following year, in October 2002, he joined Southampton Town police as a patrol officer.
“I did the job. I walked the beat. I walked in these people’s shoes who are getting them launched at them right now,” he said.
Oliver grew up in Oyster Bay, but his family spent summers in North Sea, where his grandfather developed property. He still lives in that neighborhood, which he made his home after taking the job on the South Fork. He has been a fire department volunteer for 30 years, between his time with the fire departments in Oyster Bay and North Sea.
Oliver has also been a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Moose Lodge, Elks Lodge, and Knights of Columbus organizations, but he emphatically denies being a member of any hate group.
“I never thought it was going to get to this point. I was just trying to get a little rally together,” he said.
If he canceled the rally, he was afraid agitators may show up anyway, and then it could get out of hand. “I was dreading a kid, something bad happening to anybody, but a child? That’s worst my fear,” he said. He hopes that by revealing his identity, “It will slow what could have potentially been a real bad problem.”
Oliver reiterated what he told IndyEastEnd.com earlier this month: that the rally is not meant to be political. “We’re not protesting anything,” he said, adding it is not meant as a counter protest — several protests in line with the Black Lives Matter movement took place on the South Fork after George Floyd’s death in late May, all of which were peaceful. He said he believes in the right to protest and saw that the police stood by during one in Southampton Village to ensure protestors were safe.
Those attending the “Back the Blue Rally” on Saturday, September 5 will gather at Agawam Park at 11 a.m., where there will be a brief introduction, followed by a blessing. The Pledge of Allegiance will be recited and the National Anthem sung. The group will then march down Windmill Lane, where it will turn right on Jagger Lane, and turn on Main Street, before going down Jobs Lane and wind up back at Agawam Park.
He encourages people to bring American flags, blue-line flags, military flags, and/or wear blue.
“This is peaceful,” Oliver said. “Let’s all do the loop, disperse, and have a good day.”