OPELIKA, Ala. – Next Tuesday at 5 p.m. (CT) at South Antioch Baptist Church on W.E. Morton Avenue, members of the community along with law enforcement will gather in preparation for National Night Out.
From there, they will all march together the half mile to Covington Park on Carver Avenue for a festival with food, fun and games for the kids.
National Night Out is an event that takes place across the country once a year to bring the community and law enforcement together. At a press conference in front of the Opelika Police Department, organizers along with law enforcement said this year’s event is very important in light of recent events that have transpired around the country.
Organizers for Opelika’s National Night Out, Oscar Penn and Mattie Clark said when they were younger, everyone embraced the police. They say they never thought they would see the day where people would be as afraid of law enforcement. For them, they are trying to they are trying to get rid of the fear that exists. They want to rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and the community. They added that they want police to feel safe when they are out on duty, and they want citizens to be safe when approached by police.
Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller says the Opelika Police Department has been involved with the event for years, and there is a strong relationship in place between the community and law enforcement. Mayor Fuller adds that this event is a way to show how the community is united.
A group that tries to live out National Night Out every day is East Alabama Backing the Blue. They came together after two Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies were refused service at a Phenix City Taco Bell. Their goal is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community, as well as showing that members of law enforcement are human and have families just like us.
Crystal Payne is a co-founder of the group. She says being able to give back is a great feeling. “It feels incredible,” Payne said, “It’s easy to do. Anytime I’ve needed law enforcement, they are here for me, so it’s an easy thing for me to give back to them.”
Opelika Police Chief John McEachern has been in law enforcement for 42 years. He says he has never seen an atmosphere like the current one between police and the community. He and the organizers of the event say this year’s event is important in light of recent events. Chief McEachern adds that these nights have a big impact on officers.
“It’s comforting for law enforcement to know that they have the backing of this community,” Chief McEachern. “I think it is so important that we work together to solve any of these problems instead of staying divided. We have to come together.”
Those interested in attending are asked to arrive to South Antioch Baptist Church at 5 p.m. (CT) on August 2. The march will start at 5:30 p.m. and the evening will conclude at 8:30 p.m. All members of the Opelika City Council will be in attendance as well as various pastors and speakers.