When you need something done, call a retired cop.
That's how Blue Light Friday at the White House came together last week. Unlike the lame duck occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., I have little experience as a community organizer. So I asked retired New York Police Department officer John Cardillo if he could help me turn out his law enforcement friends, families and supporters to honor the fallen.
His one-word answer: "Yes."
Our mission: Bring a blue hue to the People's House in Washington, D.C. — in the wake of the Dallas and Baton Rouge police ambushes — since Barack Obama refused to do it himself. Obama spurned the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation's request to make the small, but meaningful, gesture of turning the floodlights blue the same way he turned them rainbow for gay marriage or pink for breast cancer awareness.
Ordering the rest of the country to lower its flags to half-staff for five days was enough, his administration diffidently told reporters.
We did not agree.
As Cardillo told me: "Watching Barack Obama invite those who celebrate cop killers Mumia Abu Jamal and Joanne Chesimard to the White House, and giving the benefit of doubt in police-involved shootings to the career criminals over the career law enforcement officers, compelled me to do something other than rant on air and social media."
Our friend Cameron Gray of NRA News helped spread the word. My colleagues at Conservative Review assisted with logistics and social media coverage. Cardillo also summoned retired NYPD detective, Rob O'Donnell, who runs the nonprofit charity Brothers Before Others, which supports the LEO community.
"As a law enforcement professional for 25 years working with communities of all backgrounds, I can conclude one thing: All lives matter! Always have, always will," O'Donnell told me. "Be it a 911 call, or a peaceful protest, police of all backgrounds do what they were trained to do: run to the gunfire for all, regardless of color or creed."
That's what fallen officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens did in Dallas. And what fallen officers Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola did in Baton Rouge. And what fallen officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were sworn to do in Brooklyn. "Same as September 11th, same as Orlando, same as New Orleans, same as every street of every community in every town," O'Donnell reminded us.
We stopped by the nearby National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which features more than 20,000 names of officers killed in the line of duty dating back to 1791, before our vigil. At Lafayette Park, we passed out blue glow sticks and flashlights to a crowd of about 50 people who gathered to take part. Several active-duty LEOs stopped by after work and stood with us, too. A bagpipe player who works at a local fire department led our procession.
Gray noted: "Members of a certain Service than is known for being Secret even quietly thanked some of us, and one said it was hard not to applaud."
A crowd of young Black Lives Matters demonstrators approached, and then retreated without engaging us. Maybe they were allergic to the beautiful sound of "God Bless America" resonating from bagpipes. NBC News and Associated Press photographers snapped pictures and video (but perhaps since no American flags were burned or angry fists were raised, none of the images they captured has appeared to have made it on air or in print.)
No matter. As the sun sank, our little blue lights twinkled in the dusk and we talked to curious tourists about rising anti-cop rhetoric and violence that doesn't make front-page headlines. Many passers-by draped glow sticks around their necks or promised to turn a light blue on their front porches when they got home.
Cardillo is already working on another event in his adopted home state: "Our #BlueLightFriday gathering in front of the White House is something I hope catches on nationally. I'm optimistic as I'm already planning another for south Florida in partnership with local law enforcement."
Indeed, many families have already taken upon themselves to create their own porch-light memorials and share them online. One Lowe's home improvement store is now selling designated blue bulbs and encouraging customers to "light up the sky blue" in August for the men and women on the front lines.
It couldn't come at a better time. This week, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention are giving prime-time speaking slots to agitators of the Black Lives Matters movement, which has stoked virulent cop hatred without accountability for its bloodthirsty "pigs in a blanket, fry 'em up like bacon" rhetoric.
As Philadelphia's own Fraternal Order of Police noted: "It is sad that to win an election Mrs. Clinton must pander to the interests of people who do not know all the facts, while the men and women they seek to destroy are outside protecting the political institutions of this country."
Teach your children that small gestures matter. Change the culture, one little blue light at a time.