First-ever ‘BACK THE BLUE’ street mural painted at downtown Tampa police headquarters

By Stephen Owsinski

It finally happened: a crew of folks supporting law enforcement officers covered an entire city block with the big bold words “BACK THE BLUE.” And Tampa, Florida now has the bragging rights (utter pride) for voicing their opinion about the importance of police personnel and public safety.

During the wee hours of Saturday, a group of around 40 folks donned DIY clothing, armed themselves with paintbrushes and paint rollers and pails of black and blue and white pigments, then set out to reface asphalt throughout the stretch of one city street with not only an uplifting message to counter baseless hatred against cops but to also permanently remind Tampa’s police force (and cops everywhere) that they are indeed embraced by many in the community they swore to serve.

While ample activists have been painting (or planning to) street murals in cities and towns all across America, largely denouncing the police profession while imploring their own self-interested platforms of varying sorts, the so-called silent majority is beginning to use their vocal chords to counter anti-police messaging while also exercising the limbs (and rights) by endeavoring “Back the Blue” rallies.

All across our beloved nation comprising freedom-loving citizens, folks are aggregating in public parks and waving both American and Thin Blue Line flags to express concerns for embattled public safety officials and to support those who carry out that chronically perilous and always life-threatening mission: Cops.

Drones Above the Bay flew some of their picture-taking vessels and were gracious enough to provide some aerial footage/images of the “BACK THE BLUE” mural in Tampa. On their website, Drones Above the Bay wrote, “Tampa Florida Makes US History: On Saturday, August 1st, 2020, Tampa Bay’s law enforcement supporters painted the first ‘Back the Blue’ mural located on east Madison Street next to the Tampa Police Department in Downtown Tampa.”

As well, Summersfocus, a talented professional photographer based in Tampa, also captured some stunning imagery from an aerial perspective, perhaps resembling the view of the fallen police heroes who formerly served the citizens of Tampa before perishing in the line of duty.

To support this project, organizer Kristen Krutz (who also oversees the almost-6000-member “Back the Blue Florida” online community site), launched a Change.org petition to garner signatures to show support for the street mural (called the “Madison Mural” named for the street it is on). The petition sought donations (for paint supplies) and a general consensus of what to particularly paint: “We organized the first ‘Back the Blue rally’ in the nation, since the violent attacks on police began this May. And a few weeks later were the catalyst, and support to hundreds of rallies around the country on what we declared as ‘national back the blue day.’ We represent one thing, Supporting Law Enforcement.

“I requested Permission from Mayor [Jane] Castor to paint a mural of ‘BACK THE BLUE’ or ‘BLUE LIVES MATTER’ painted on Madison St. in front of HQ! She stated, ‘officers that I have spoken with were interested in a mural (art work) rather than a statement.’ So we will need some consensus on what TPD would like to see as a tribute. Rather have it done to everyone’s satisfaction than expeditiously.”

In contact with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor (Tampa PD’s prior police chief before assuming the mayoral role/duties), Kurtz “was referred to city staff and was sent a guide with steps on painting an intersection in Tampa,” the Tampa Bay Times reported. Kurtz’s husband drew up the specs.

In regard to the plethora of “Black Lives Matter” murals painted in many jurisdictions across the American canvas, Krutz added, “If others are allowed to exercise their 1st Amendment right, then you should be able to as well!” BINGO!

Fast forward, Ms. Krutz and her crew of 40 volunteers measured, chalked a template to follow, then laid down the pigments seen in the cover photograph above.

Krutz’s petition closed with “YOU ARE SUPPORTED! YOU ARE APPRECIATED! YOU ARE NEEDED!” in all capital letters, exceptionally done so as to bellow the sincere support (not yelling, although I can’t imagine anyone minding a boisterous voice with heartfelt intonations chanting those exact words, especially nowadays).

For local media reporting on this mural endeavor, Ms. Krutz, 36, said the following about police officers in our current climate: “They’re being defunded and things that they need and require to do their job are not going to be provided anymore. Obviously, that would make anybody feel underappreciated, unwanted, and that’s the opposite of what we wanted them to see with the mural on the street.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Krutz and about 40 other people painted the mural Saturday evening in the middle of East Madison Street [which runs along one side of the Tampa Police headquarters building in blue]. The mural spans the block and is painted with the black, white and blue colors of the pro-police ‘thin blue line’ flag.”

Ms. Krutz harbors a personal/professional duality which influenced her motivation and effort behind the “BACK THE BLUE” mural: she embraces four brave, courageous family members who nobly serve as police officers in Chicago.

Given the Madison Mural’s precisely chosen location, directly around the corner from the Tampa Police Memorial honoring their fallen warriors, retired Tampa Police Assistant Chief John Newman offered the following observation in relation to the “BACK THE BLUE” mural: “Ignore the chatter about whether a permit was pulled or not for the Back The Blue mural. As you all have told us, there was approval for this awesome mural project to move forward, but no actual permit. But if anyone needs to see the names that authorized your awesome project they can just [literally] go around the corner. There [at the Tampa Police Memorial] they can read all 32 names of the men and women of Tampa PD that gave the last full measure of service to our community.” Hats off to retired Chief Newman for having peeled eyes and a wholly relevant message to aptly suit the event’s purpose while also acknowledging those who selflessly crafted pigmented prose to the fallen.

It seems most appropriate to conclude with a heartfelt sentiment Kristen Krutz shared with the National Police Association: regarding laying down the street mural, “The skyline and atmosphere lighted up that evening with hope and strength.” Indeed, we can all use an extra helping of hope and strength, especially our nation’s law enforcement warriors who take to the mean streets and feverishly try to maintain law and order among a frenzied, chaotic bunch whose self-interests are demarcated in cities and towns all across these United States.

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