LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The Founder of a local non-profit is facing backlash for her support of law enforcement, during this time where our country is seeing unrest after the death of George Floyd.
Megan O'Grady was 14 years old when she started the non-profit "Blue Line Bears." She uses the uniforms of fallen police officers to make teddy bears for their families. Three years later, she's made more than 700 bears for the families of fallen officers.
She told Fox 4 because of her support for law enforcement, she's now getting death threats against her family.
"Our mission is to help the families of fallen police officers by making teddy bears out of uniform shirts of the fallen officer to give to the kids,” O'Grady said.
She's delivered bears all over the world: to families in Malta, Europe, Hawaii, and in Southwest Florida.
O'Grady said Blue Line Bears is her passion, and she posted about that passion on Facebook, after the death of George Floyd and the unrest seen across the country. O'Grady's dad is also a Master Sergeant with the Cape Coral Police Department, so in her post, she mentioned her support of police. That's when she said the comments and messages started pouring in.
"It's heartbreaking, reading stuff about wanting my dad to be killed," She said. "'I hope your dad gets shot in the face,' and then, 'You all deserve to die,' stuff like that."
She said some of the messages even came from her own classmates.
"I'm glad that he's not on patrol anymore, but god forbid someone finds us and actually goes through with it. I don't think they would, but you never know anymore," O'Grady said.
The threats have gotten to the point where her family decided to unwrap her Blue Line Bears Jeep for her safety.
"I was driving -- and this just further proves that we had to unwrap the jeep -- the girl who's sitting in the car next to me started flipping me off and screaming at me, and she started to like reach for her door handle like she was going to come out of the car and start trying to attack me. Luckily, I was able to turn out so I could drive away, but it was like it was terrifying. I've never been in a position where I don't feel safe driving my own car," she told Fox 4.
O'Grady said she wants you to know this: "We are not anti-Black Lives Matter. We are not racist or anything like that. Blue Line Bears isn't anything political at all. It's just a good gesture to the families."
She said her whole family was outraged by what happened to George Floyd.
"My whole family is completely against what happened. It hurts us because it's putting my dad in a position where it makes him look like a bad person, when he's not. So we hate it. We hate what happened," she said.
Fox 4 wanted to take this one step further, and educate. We talked to an activist within the Black Lives Matter movement, who said this behavior is not representative of the work they're trying to do.
Chantel Rhodes said many people believe being part of the BLM movement means you're automatically anti-police, or opposed to organizations like Blue Line Bears, but that's not true.
"This movement is about equality, and fair policing, proper policing. And I want to make sure to get the message out that this is not an attack on police officers. The global movement, we recognize not all cops are bad cops. However, we cannot ignore the systemic racism that has been embedded into our law enforcement, and into this nation in general," Rhodes said.
She said it's time to put an end to police brutality and poor policing for good.
"How many times are we going to have to see these stories before leadership on both sides will intervene and say, 'OK, this is not right, and we will address it properly the first time,' so that we don't have to see this outcry," Rhodes told Fox 4.
She said there needs to be more transparency in law enforcement, so people of all races can trust police completely.
"With law enforcement saying, 'Hey, when something happens with one of our officers, terminations are taking place, or other disciplinary measures are taking place,'" Rhodes said.
She said the first step is a conversation between both sides.
"We have to be willing to come to the table and have those difficult conversations. If people listen, they will realize that we're not so different after all. You can care about black lives and and racism in this country, and poor policing, and also be in support of police officers who are doing their job, who are serving our communities, who are giving it all that they have," she said.
Rhodes also said both sides need to be held accountable.
"The people have to be accountable for their actions. absolutely. We do see that, but also, law enforcement has to be accountable, too," she said.
Even though she personally had nothing to do with the threats O'Grady faced, Rhodes wanted Fox 4 to include she extends and apology to O'Grady, and applauds her work in helping families who are hurting. Rhodes has also been meeting with the Lee County Sheriff to talk about ways to increase transparency and take steps toward policy change within the department.