'Walk with us': Police officer's act of solidarity amid protests

·5-min read

A police sheriff has put down his helmet and baton to join a crowd of protesters marching against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson joined protesters in Flint, Michigan, on Saturday afternoon – asking the crowds to tell the police officers what they could do.

Videos have circulated on social media of Sheriff Swanson addressing the crowd of protesters.

“The only reason we’re here is to make sure you have a voice,” he is heard saying to the crowd.

“Don’t think for a second he represents who these cops are from all over the county and around this nation, we go out there to help people, not do that nonsense.”

Pictured is Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson joining the demonstration following George Floyd's death.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson joined the demonstration in Flint. Source: Twitter/RexChapman

Sheriff Swanson was presumably referring to white police officer, Derek Chauvin, who arrested African-American man George Floyd in a Minneapolis street for a non-violent offence.

He was filmed kneeling on his neck while Mr Floyd was gasping for breath. He later died in custody.

Mr Floyd’s death sparked protests and riots across the United States, while Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter days later on Friday.

Sheriff Swanson said he wanted to be with the crowd of protesters.

“I want to make this a parade, not a protest,” he said as the crowd cheered.

“These cops love you.

“That cop over there hugs people, so you tell us what you need.”

The crowd then starts chanting “walk with us”, and the sheriff gestures for the crowd to move forward, marching beside them in solidarity.

In a press conference following the demonstration, Sheriff Swanson said he wasn’t ignorant to believe just because Flint had a “historic night”, the pain suddenly disappeared.

“I’m not naive to think – nobody here is naive to think – the pain’s not still here,” he said.

“It’s action that speaks. Law enforcement can speak, they can talk, they can promise, which is all part of frustration.

“As I said yesterday we saw a group of folks, white and black, young and old, from all over – Indiana, Detroit – and they’re frustrated because their voices haven’t been heard.”

He added as law enforcement, the wrongdoing needed to be called out and promised to be proactive rather than wait until another black person is killed at the hands of police.

According to CNN, Sheriff Swanson addressed Chauvin’s actions in a Facebook post on Friday prior to joining the protest.

“I join with the chorus of citizens and law enforcement officials alike, calling for the swift arrest and prosecution of each police officer involved in this appalling crime," he wrote.

"The actions we witnessed on that video destroy countless efforts to bolster community policing efforts across our nation, and erode trust that is painstakingly built.”

Following the parade, Flint Township Police Department released a statement saying no one was arrested and the the demonstration was peaceful.

“Several hundred protesters on foot and in vehicles marched and drove from Target on Miller Rd. to the Flint Township Police station over the course of several hours. The protest remained peaceful for the entire duration,” the statement said.

“The Flint Township Police Department respects the community’s freedom of speech and their desire to demonstrate peacefully. No arrests were made during this event.”

Genesee County Sheriff was one of the departments which assisted Flint Township Police Department.

While tensions between the community and police officers are high in the wake of horrific display of police brutality exhibited by Chauvin, and riots fuelled rage across America, Sheriff Swanson has been praised for his leadership.

Sheriff Swanson was not the only member from a police force to walk alongside demonstrators.

Camden County Police Chief Joe Wysocki, from New Jersey – who has been working in the city for decades – sported his uniform, a protective face mask and a peace sign as he joined the front line of a march in Camden on Saturday afternoon (local time).

”Yesterday was another example of our ongoing engagement, and a very real dialogue, that we are having with residents throughout Camden that has made our agency part of the fabric of this city,” Wysocki said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.

Since Camden’s police force disbanded and reformed in 2013 as a county agency, officers there have been hyper-focused on community policing.

It’s not strange to see them on walking beats or attending neighbourhood block parties like one Saturday night where two officers grilled up hamburgers and hot dogs.

“We know that together we are stronger, we know that together, in the city of Camden, we can create a space where policing is focused on deescalation and dialogue,” Wysocki said.

On Saturday night, peaceful protests turned violent in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Atlanta, according to the Associated Press.

Store windows were smashed and items were stolen, police cars were set on fire. Both police officers and civilians suffered serious injuries.

− With Associated Press

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