CHICAGO — For some Chicagoans, the police are little more than a symbol of authority. But the 1,000 law enforcement officers and supporters riding motorcycles during Sunday's Ride to Remember have a different message.
"It's a very pointed message. Police lose their lives day in and day out, leaving their families in a position where they need help," said Chief Nick Roti, head of the Chicago Police Department's gang division.
The ride, which honored fallen police officers and their families, took the group of bikers through Downtown, starting at the Harrison District police station, 3151 W. Harrison St., and ending at the Chicago Police Memorial east of Soldier Field.
Roti has helped organize the ride, which doubles as a fundraiser for Gold Star Families, since its conception nine years ago. This year, it raised $150,000 for families of police officers killed or badly injured in the line of duty.
"It brings awareness that police aren't just a faceless entity," Roti said. "They are people that have family's. Their job is just to protect people."
After winding through city neighborhoods and taking Lake Shore Drive to the memorial, riders - joined by former Supt. Phil Cline - held a moment of silence and honored the 562 names etched into the memorial by laying a wreath in front of it.
"It's just a great ride in a great city," said Carlos Garcia, who is a member of the Blue Maniacs, a motorcycle club made entirely of law enforcement officers.
"We do it to honor our fallen brothers and sisters. It unifies everyone," Garcia said.