Blisteringly cold weather did not prevent hundreds from turning out in Liberty State Park to march for Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago and all officers killed in the line of duty throughout the United States in 2014.
The Jersey City Police Detective’s Benevolent Association hosted “A Walk To Remember” Saturday afternoon. The 5K walk was a march of solidarity for police officers everywhere and to help stem the tide of recent animosity toward police officers, said Mark Razzoli, a member on the executive board of the JCPD-DBA and a JCPD detective.
“With all this demonization currently of law enforcement, we just wanted to let the families who lost loved ones that you’re not going to be forgotten,” Razzoli said, a veteran of the force for more than two decades.
“All lives matter — it doesn’t matter who you are,” he added.
The walk drew upwards of 300 people which included about 100 Jersey City Police officers and family members, residents, and officers from various other states — including New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Maryland, among others.
In addition, legislative leaders showed up at the event, including Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, among others.
Fred DiMase, a Jersey City Police detective who’s been on the force for 26 years, did not seem surprised that the day’s event attracted officers from far outside of Jersey City.
“It’s the thin blue line,” DiMase said. “If you put it out there that we’re going to represent every guy in the country, there’s a good chance that you’re going to get people from every place … to come out.
“It’s a community,” DiMase added. “We’re brothers and sisters.”
While the sun shined unimpeded thorough the clear January sky on Saturday, those who participated in the 5K walked through Liberty State Park braved temperatures which hovered in the mid-20s.
The walk honored the 118 police officers killed while wearing their uniforms in 2014, a list that includes Santiago, the 23-year-old freshman Jersey City Police officer who was shot and killed on July 13.
The day’s event was also a fundraiser to benefit the Melvin Santiago Fund, a memorial fund for Santiago’s family; and Brothers Before Others, a law-enforcement organization which sends flowers to the surviving families of officers killed in the line of duty.
Among those at the walk on Saturday was Ronnie Gonzalez-Ramos, the cousin of Rafael Ramos who was the New York City Police officer shot and killed alongside his partner Wenjian Liu in Bedford-Stuyvesant in December.
Ronnie Gonzalez-Ramos, who was joined by his wife and two daughters, held a large framed picture at the walk which he had made that featured a photo of Rafael Ramos.
“I brought it here to put a face to the number,” Ronnie Gonzalez-Ramos said. “I don’t want to just carry his badge. I want people to see who he was.”
At the end of the event around 1:30 p.m., Ronnie Gonzalez-Ramos said the day’s event was “overwhelming.”
“I feel that we should honor the fallen in every way,” Ronnie Gonzalez-Ramos said, “but we should also honor the living. There are lots of cops that are still alive here that carry the torch that the fallen officers left behind. We need to back them up in every way and support them in every way so that this sort of tragedy doesn’t happen again.”