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Rally to support Liam Long, and for those with autism

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Posted at 5:07 PM, Apr 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-17 23:24:46-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — For the second weekend in a row, a rally was held in downtown Lexington for Liam Long, the teen with autism who was hit by a police cruiser last month.

This time, the focus was on messages of support for his family and others with autism.

'Justice for Liam' and 'Mental illness is not a crime' were some of the messages written across the Courthouse plaza today to show support for Liam in his recovery.

The group also wrote letters for Liam which will be delivered to him in the hospital.

On Tuesday, March 30, officers responded to a call about a welfare check, and Liam was hit by a police cruiser after running from the area.

He's been in the hospital since with serious injuries and his mom, Kendra, says he has no memory of what happened.

Kendra Long says the community's support has been overwhelming.

She also says bringing awareness to autism and the need to educate the public and law enforcement officials about it is important so people don't get hurt in a situation like this again.

"Knowledge is power and understanding that when children are sensory overloaded when they're already upset is so important because when you're telling them to do something or commanding them to do something or threatening them in any way, their automatic response is fight or flight," said Kendra Long, Liam's mother.

Members of Autistics United Kentucky say this isn't the first time a Lexington police officer physically hurt a teen with autism and it shouldn't happen again.

“We think the police should not be sent to respond to mental health crises as there is a pattern again and again of it ending in assault or murder. They are the wrong people for that job,” said Winter Sherman with Autistics United Kentucky. “We want the community to understand that autistic people deserve to live and live fulfilling, happy lives and be treated as equals.”

The family's attorney, Daniel Whitley, Sr., believes Lexington Police should take accountability for the incident.

“I want you to take a look at your department and say, 'How can we fix this?' And it's not one of these things where it takes years or decades to fix,” he said. “It's a change in your culture, your mentality toward how you treat your people. We're not talking about strangers. We're talking about our government and how our government should treat its citizens.”