LEWISTON — After police officers were gunned down in Dallas, Rick Rodrigue put up a “Thank you Blue” sign outside his Lisbon Street Chandler Security business.

On Sabattus Street, Val’s Drive In owner Chris Lawrence changed his electronic sign to read: “Blue Lives Matter.”

Calls, emails and gifts of food came pouring into local police stations from citizens thanking police for their service. In Auburn, Greg Poliquin of Poliquin Machinery sent pizza to the station for lunch.

Margaritas restaurants are providing free meals to police officers and their families through Wednesday.

“What happened in Dallas is unbelievably horrible,” Auburn Margarita’s Assistant General Manager Brian Bunnell said Saturday. “We want to show our appreciation.”

To spread the word about the free meals, Bunnell called the State Police, the Androscoggin Sheriff’s Office, and area departments, including Lewiston, Auburn, Monmouth and Winthrop.

“We want to make sure they take advantage of it,” Bunnell said. “They’re the real heroes.”

Rodrigue has friends who are on the Lewiston Police Department force, Bill Brochu and Ray Roberts. When he heard about the Dallas shootings, “It hurt right to the core,” he said.

“These guys do a tough job,” he said. Putting up his sign “is a little thing I can do as a citizen of Lewiston.”

Heidi Sawyer, creator of Lewiston Rocks Facebook, encouraged people to attend Wednesday’s Lewiston Police Department’s outside movie night.

“This is a perfect example of how our local police force stands above the rest, how they work to be visible and involved members of our community,” Sawyer said on her post.

She invited the community, as well as prominent Lewiston leaders Linda Scott,  ZamZam Mohamud, Abdikadir Negeye, Kristen Cloutier, Ben Martin, Asmo Bashir, Tom Shannon and others to attend Wednesday’s movie night “to show support for the Lewiston Police Department and our diverse community.”

Blue glowsticks will be available as a symbol “that we all stand together,” Sawyer said.

Lewiston Police Sgt. Wayne Clifford said Saturday that people on the street are telling officers: “’Thank you for everything you do. We appreciate it.'”

He said there has been a strong outpouring of support from the community.

“It’s great,” he said. “I think we have a great relationship with the community and citizens of Lewiston.”

As someone who wears a police uniform, the Dallas shooting “hits home,” Clifford said.

Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell asked officers to remember the families of those killed, and directed officers to wear memorial bands for those who have fallen.

In a Friday email to his officers, Crowell reminded them that the people they serve “trust and support us. Only a small fraction of cowards seek to destroy what we stand for.”

The police shootings of blacks, which has launched the Black Lives Matter movement, are isolated incidents out of state, Crowell said. But anyone who wears a police uniform “gets lumped in.”

Some officers have and will make bad choices.

“Accountability is critical,” he said.

To prevent violence, police departments across the nation have to build trust with citizens, Crowell said.

Lewiston and Auburn are working on that through community policing. Auburn holds neighborhood watch meetings, offers citizen police courses and officers frequently visit the PAL Center, the drop-in center for young people.

Lewiston has a four-member community police team and holds different events to encourage positive relationships, like the summer movie nights.

The July 13 movie, which is free, begins at 8:30 p.m. at the South Lewiston ballfield on Elizabeth Street off Martin Drive in the vicinity of the Holy Cross church. The movie will be “The Sandlot.”

Family events will be held before the film. Popcorn will be provided by Lewiston police.

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