By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Kevin Kyle’s Facebook idea of having a patriotic rally blossomed Friday night into a large event at the courthouse square in downtown Warsaw.
Kyle’s idea was to host a gathering to support freedom and the U.S. Constitution while also saluting police and first responders.
On Friday night, roughly 300 people, many wearing red, white and blue attire – plus a large contingent of motorcyclists – gathered for a rally to celebrate the flag, the right to assemble, the Second Amendment and President Donald Trump.
Friday’s event comes after a series of rallies in recent weeks by supporters of Black Lives Matter in Warsaw and Winona Lake. Kyle said it was not intended to be a counter-rally to the earlier events.
Kyle described the event as a “celebration rally” of like-minded patriots.
Wearing a Trump 2016 shirt, Kyle implored supporters to vote for Trump in November.
He mentioned the need to “fix the insanity of the radical left socialist progressive globalist leader who wishes to destroy the country we love,” but did not name that person.
“We have the power to rid Washington of the swamp. This November, our very way of life is at stake and only God and we the people can change it,” he said
To a great degree, the speeches echoed support for the status quo and conservative values, as well as support for police, first responders and the military.
Kyle took a few jabs at the national media, specifically CNN and MSNB, claiming, “They love to bash our way of life.”
Steve Long, an Afghanistan war veteran, spoke to the crowd. He pointed out that the Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal.
“Wouldn’t that mean that all lives matter?” he said, drawing applause
He also spoke of the importance of the Second Amendment, which he described as “the teeth of the Constitution.”
“The Second Amendment’s there to basically tell the government that if you want some, come get some,” Long said.
The event was attended by several elected officials, including State Rep. Curt Nisly, who spoke to the crowd.
“This is wonderful,” Nisly said. “We needed this. Psychologically, we’ve been bombarded with so much negativity over the last few weeks, months.”
Nisly criticized the spectacle of fighting over masks to protect against coronavirus and the fact so many events have been cancelled.
“Some of you think we are at war and we are. But it’s not left versus right, Democrat versus Republican or conservative versus liberal. It’s liberty versus slavery,” Nisly said.
Elizabeth Oppel spoke to the crowd about the importance of diversity and how the country came together as a melting pot.
She then addressed the current political atmosphere.
“We are being instructed to divide and pick sides. In the midst of the clamor, discussion and debate, the real enemy is being disguised,” Oppel said.
“The real enemy is not me. The real enemy is not you. The real enemy is anyone who pits us against one another,” she said, drawing applause.
Shelly Zartman, whose brother-in-law is a Warsaw police officer, also spoke to the crowd. She said that the actions of one bad officer should not reflect badly on all officers.
“When I hear that cops are the bad guys now, I think we should all have a real fricking problem with that,” she said.
Pastor John B. Lowe II gave the closing speech and prayer and told the crowd that the country can rise above the current strife and pointed to how that happened after the anti-war movement and tragedy at Kent State in 1970.
“We’ve been here before, we came out of it. We can come out of this as well,” Lowe said.
Lowe was the only speaker to directly address the death of George Floyd, whose death in police custody sparked nation-wide protests and riots and energized Black Lives Matter into a national movement.
Lowe brought up the issue while reviewing the oath of police, which demands, among other things, that they hold themselves and others accountable.
“That didn’t happen with George Floyd. There were three other men there and somebody should have held the officer accountable.,” Lowe said. “It was wrong.”