Michigan Sheriff Takes Off Helmet, Joins Protesters Marching For George Floyd

Monday, June 1st 2020, 12:46 pm
By: CBS News

Police officers and the National Guard clashed with protesters in several U.S. cities this weekend, as demonstrations over the death of George Floyd escalated. But in Michigan, law enforcement officers actually joined a peaceful protest in a show of solidarity. Video showing Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson taking off his helmet and joining a group of protesters in a march has gone viral.

"The only reason we're here is to make sure you got a voice, that's it," Swanson tells a crowd in Flint, Michigan, receiving cheers in return. "Don't think for a second that he represents cops from all over the county and around this nation," the sheriff continues, apparently referring to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with third-degree murder in Floyd's death.

Video of Chauvin kneeling for several minutes on Floyd's neck sparked a nationwide outcry for justice last week. Floyd is heard repeatedly saying "I can't breath," throughout the heart-wrenching video. 

While many of the protests over Floyd's death led to violence and looting over the weekend, the demonstration Swanson attended in Flint remained peaceful.

"We want to be with y'all for real. I took my helmet off, lay the batons down. We want to make this a parade, not a protest," Swanson says in the video. "These cops love you. That cop over there hugs people. So, you tell us what you need."

The sheriff's speech was cut off by chants from the crowd. "Walk with us!" the crowd shouted. Swanson then happily agreed and high-fived demonstrators as he joined their march. 

There are several other videos from different U.S. cities showing police officers peacefully joining protesters in solidarity. However, in many cases, interactions between police officers and protesters turned violent. 

City and state officials deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers, enacted strict curfews and shut down mass transit systems to slow protesters' movements, but that did little to stop parts of many cities from again erupting into mayhem.

Outside the White House, police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters across the street in Lafayette Park.

In Minneapolis, police officers used rubber bullets on demonstrators who defied curfews on Saturday night. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used his daily coronavirus briefing on Sunday to plead for calm after a night of unrest in cities throughout the state. "Violence never works," Cuomo said.

At least 4,400 people have been arrested over days of protests, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press. Arrests ranged from thefts and blocking highways to breaking curfews.