Police Supporters Rally Half a Mile from Police Protesters; An Active Evening in Westford

A Back the Blue rally held across from the Boston Road fire station attracted a number of residents determined to show their backing for the Westford Police Department.

Back the Blue supporters on Aug. 9 in the town Common. Neither would give a name but both said they don’t live in Westford. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

The event included a brief public thank you from Police Chief Thomas McEnaney.

Half a mile away at the Town Common about 20 Black Lives Matter protesters held signs and shouted the names of black people across the country who have died while in police custody. None of the events involved Westford police.

Police Chief Thomas McEnaney addresses the crowd. PHOTO BY KATHY LYNCH

Among the protesters was Emily Gilstrap of Westford.

“I’m here today,” she said, “because black lives matter and black lives should be our focus of attention right now. I feel that we should hold our local police to account for their promises of addressing systemic racism in the town.”

Gilstrap said town officials have signed a statement saying they would address the matter. “And I want to see that action,” she added.

McEnaney said his department stands against police brutality.

The police chief lives in Westford and sent his children to Westford public schools.

In April 2017, Police Officers Ian McEnaney and Greg Burns were publicly lauded for resolving a Groton Road incident of domestic violence without using force.

At the time, Police Capt. Mark Chambers credited mental health crisis training as the foundation that gave McEnaney and Burns the presence of mind to avoid using their firearms.

“In some other departments this could have ended much worse and probably would have,” Chambers said in 2017. “But it’s a credit to the training, their patience, their fortitude as police officers here in Westford, that we do go the extra mile.”

Westford Academy student Unnati Bhat organized the BLM rally which she originally planned to hold at 68 Boston Road on a parcel owned privately by Groton Developer Ebi Masalehdan.

But Bhat stated to WestfordCAT in an email prior to the rally that “we have been getting some death threats, so we may go to the Common for safety reasons.”

Just down the road amidst the blue backers was resident Kathy Lynch, Westford Republican Town Committe chair and Massachusetts Republican State Committeewoman.

“This Back the Blue rally was a way to show the police that they can rely on us,” she stated. “Any effort to sabotage their good works is a recipe for disaster. At the same time, we expect the police to treat people fairly, without exessive force, or abuse of power.”

Disclosure: Unnati Bhat was a WestfordCAT volunteer last summer.