While many protests throughout the country turned violent Saturday, Genesee County, Michigan Sheriff Chris Swanson was seen taking off his riot gear to join protesters in Flint Township. A similar scene played out in Santa Cruz, California, where Police Chief Andy Mills was seen taking a knee during a moment of silence. The protests were demonstrations against police brutality and racial inequality, inspired by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Swanson attended a peaceful march in Flint Township, located next to the City of Flint, reports MLive.com. The protest started at about 6 p.m. with just a small group but quickly grew to include thousands of people. Supporters also joined the protesters in cars, following the march. Many chanted "No justice, no peace, no racist police" and some carried signs reading "Black lives matter" and "Racism is still the biggest pandemic we face."
The America we want:— ALT-immigration 🛂 (@ALT_uscis) May 31, 2020
Flint sheriff took his riot gear off and marched with protesters instead. pic.twitter.com/6URGXrN74f
"This is historic. The whole damn city is out here," Johnie Franklin, who helped organize the event, said. "Man, look at this. This is bigger than any one of us. This is for Ahmaud Arbery. This is for Breonna (Taylor). This is for George Floyd. This is for anyone who was ever silenced. This is for all of us." Franklin said the protesters "just wanted to be heard" and have a conversation. "After today, I know we've been heard," he said.
After two hours, the march reached the Flint Township Police Department, where officers and sheriff's deputies were wearing riot gear. The protesters sat and later had conversations with police officers. There were hugs and high-fives, inspiring Swanson to take off his fear. He even put his baton on the ground.
Police chief of Santa Cruz and protesters today.— ✨ sandra gresham ✨ (@sandra_gr) May 31, 2020
Photo: Schmuel Thaler pic.twitter.com/Ik4JcpNwFB
"This is the way it's supposed to be — the police working with the community," Swanson said. "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." Swanson later said Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis officer charged in Floyd's death "is not one of us."
"You've shown the whole world how it's done," says NPD Chief Larry Boone. He said he hears them.
The crowd wants to know what he is going to do. pic.twitter.com/P6Z5R9P34L— Saleen Martin (@Saleen_Martin) May 30, 2020
Thousands of miles away in California, Santa Cruz resident Joy Flynn helped organize a peaceful protest. The event started with a moment of silence, with both Mills and Mayor Justin Cummings joining in, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel. There were also scenes of police officers in Norfolk, Virginia and New Jersey joining protesters peacefully. "You've shown the whole world how it's done," Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone told a group of peaceful protesters, reports the Virginia Pilot.
New Jersey cops marching with protesters pic.twitter.com/zMMMqHL0hB— ALT-immigration 🛂 (@ALT_uscis) May 31, 2020
Floyd died in police custody on May 25, when Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, even after Floyd lost consciousness. On Friday, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and three other officers were fired.