COVENTRY — While trust in law enforcement wavers nationwide, a car parade organized this week by a Coventry nonprofit aimed to show local police officers that their community has their backs. 

“They’re good people, and we want them to know that we’re in support of them,” Norma Smith, president of Grow Coventry, said Wednesday shortly before the parade kicked off.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, protests have erupted across the globe decrying police brutality and pleading for police reform. Calls to “defund the police” have led a number of America's cities to redirect funding away from their local departments. 

“We still want to show that we, as a community, care,” Smith continued. 

Cars decked out in balloons and streamers rolled Wednesday through Coventry’s streets, slowly making their way from the Olde Theater Diner parking lot to the police headquarters on Wood Street. Messages like “we back the police” and “you are appreciated” showed police in Coventry that they’re supported.

More than 40 cars participated, as did vehicles from the Coventry and Central Coventry fire departments. 

The parade was the first event Grow Coventry had held in quite some time. 

“We had other things planned for this year,” Smith said, “but with the virus, we had to put things on hold.”

The organization had planned to hold an art festival in June, for example, but that had to be canceled; an outdoor theater event scheduled for August has been called off. Smith is now looking ahead to 2021 to hold those and other gatherings, including a possible revival of Old Home Days, that will bring together residents from all corners of Coventry.

Founded with the mission of “bridging the gap between business and citizens using history, arts, culture, theater and events,” Grow Coventry aims to foster a strong sense of community. And as it prepares for next year, Smith said the organization would welcome anyone interested in becoming involved. 

“We need some community participation,” Smith said. “We need members, volunteers, to help us achieve our goal of bringing the community together." 

And that goal, she added, includes ensuring members of the Coventry Police Department feel appreciated.

“The police are part of our community," Smith said. "They’re not a separate entity.”

Those interested in learning more about Grow Coventry, or in becoming involved with the organization, can check out the Grow Coventry Facebook page and the Grow Coventry (Public) Facebook group. 

Smith can also be reached at growcoventry2018@gmail.com.

kgravelle@ricentral.com

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