CHICAGO -- More than 800 men and women on motorcycles rode to remember this morning -- the largest turnout, organizers say, the event has had in 12 years of commemorating fallen Chicago Police officers.
"We all join the department to help people, and that's what we are here for," said Sgt. John Roberts.
The ride from the 11th District police station at Harrison and Kedzie, down Western to Washington Park, east to Lake Shore Drive and back north to the Gold Star Families Memorial- was expected to raise $50,000 for the families of those killed or injured in the line of duty.
"It's always dangerous, but it seems to be a little more dangerous with these unprovoked attacks against law enforcement. We know going in that we could be faced with violence, but to be acting in the normal line of duty without provocation is unheard of," Roberts said.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the shooting deaths of officers nationwide increased 78 percent in the first half of 2016 compared with last year. That reality prompted organizer John Roberts' mother to come out today in solidarity with her two sons in blue.
"I live in a nice part of the city, and I don't know what happens in the neighborhoods that aren't so lucky. They see those things everyday and are not rewarded for those, they are still criticized and still seen as the enemy," said Mary Ellen McLain, a mother of two CPD officers.
Close to 70 officers have died in the U.S in the line of duty in 2016; about half of them were shot and killed.
"I believe that police officers, regardless of what's going on, are going to continue to move forward and protect the community as they always have and not really concern themselves with current events as many people thing they are," said Jerry Pentinome, a CPD detective and hostage negotiator.
Officers are asking Chicagoans to stand with them as they work to protect and serve.
"We understand in the community that things have been heightened these days, but we have to work together, and we pray the community can support us so we can make sure everyone is taken care of -- citizens and the police alike," said CPD officer Marjet Wysinger.