On Sept. 30, 2015, Forest Acres Police Officer Greg Alia kissed his wife and son goodbye and left for work. Hours later, he was murdered while on duty. Two years later, his widow, Kassy Alia, called people together and asked them to take action. She did not ask for revenge on the man who killed Greg. She asked instead for all to remember her husband and other fallen heroes by simply being kind and letting go of the things which divide us.
Alia and Heroes in Blue, the organization she founded in memory of her husband Greg, a Forest Acres police officer, hosted a day of remembrance and call for compassionate action Saturday, the second anniversary of Greg’s death.
“We are coming together to hear different voices from different perspectives, different backgrounds that are all calling for the same thing: for compassion for one another,” Alia said. “We can all come together to prevent more people from falling into a life of crime and violence.”
Gov. Henry McMaster proclaimed Saturday “Compassionate Action Rally Day” for all of South Carolina. Speaking at the event, he focused on thanking law enforcement officers.
“I’ll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing more comforting when you need help and nothing else will do than to hear somebody say ‘The police are here,’” McMaster said. “Without them, none of us could do what we do in our daily lives in safety and happiness.”
Alia also spoke of change in her emotional address to the crowd. “Change happens when we are willing to confront our greatest fears, the things that make us most uncomfortable,” she said. “We can all come together to prevent more people from falling into a life of crime and violence.”
Local artist Shelby LeBlanc drew the Heroes in Blue logo in chalk near the State House steps, then encouraged all to leave their hand prints on the drawing or sign their names around it in a symbol of unity.
Organizations such as Able SC, the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, the LRADAC Foundation, the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center and Homeless No More set up tables at the rally, and Alia encouraged all those in attendance to get involved, taking action to make their community a better place.
Law enforcement officers from departments all over the Midlands attended, including Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook and Springdale Police Chief Kevin Cornett.
“We’re here today as a call for compassion. We’re here today because we all have a lot of divisiveness going on in our society,” Cornett said. “When we stand here like this together, nobody’s going to break us, and this is how we start change.”
More photos and video from the rally are available at the Midlands Anchor Facebook page.
Featured image: Heroes in Blue board member Juan Ibarra speaking at Saturday’s rally (photo by Allen Wallace)