By Duncan Smith
A sheriff in Michigan put down his riot gear and joined a group of demonstrators who gathered to protest the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd last week.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, who is white, walked with protesters and discussed the incident involving Floyd, who died after fired police officer Derek Chauvin used a knee to pin Floyd to the pavement for several minutes.
He joined the crowd to give an impromptu speech which has since gone viral, telling protesters he supports them.
'We want to be with you all, for real,' Swanson said. 'So, I took my helmet off, we laid the batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest,' he said, prompting cheers.
'These cops love you. That cop over there,' Swanson said. As he pointed to a deputy, he said 'that cop over there hugs people. So, you tell us what we need to do.'
At that point, the crowd began chanting, 'Walk with us! Walk with us,' and Swanson said, 'Let’s walk!'
'This is the way it's supposed to be — the police working with the community,' Swanson said as he walked with protesters. 'When we see injustice, we call it out on the police side and on the community side. All we had to do was talk to them, and now we're walking with them. … The cops in this community, we condemn what happened. That guy [Chauvin] is not one of us.'
'We can't forget on all our police cars across the nation it says, 'protect and serve,'' Swanson said. 'That means all people, that means all people deserve the same dignity. If you can't call out what's wrong, try to make it right. And that's the magic we saw tonight. Nobody's arrested, nobody got hurt. This is how it's supposed to be.'
When the march ended, it was dark and Swanson addressed the crowd once more.
'Hey, I want you to hear this. In my entire career, I will never forget this night. Because what I saw is what the entire nation saw when they see people that are angry, people that feel like they don't have a voice, turn in a second when the police listen to them when the police understand them.
'And when I asked what I can do — because police condemn what happened in Minneapolis — that's not who we are. There are good people that love you that need to hear what you have to say. And once we did that — I asked one question, 'What do we need to do? and he said, 'Walk with us. And here we are, walking with you.
“Because all you're asking for is a voice and dignity for all. No matter who you are. I love you guys, the police love you,' the sheriff said. 'Enough is enough on our end, and we're with you.'
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