KEY POINTS

  • Sheriff Christopher Swanson was filmed and photographed joining protests in Flint, Michigan, seeking justice for the death of George Floyd
  • Swanson said he took off his riot gear and joined the march after seeing a friendly interaction between one of his officers and a protester
  • The scene in Flint stands in stark contrast to the chaos erupting at protests around the U.S.

New video has gained national attention of a sheriff laying down his riot gear and joining marching protesters in Flint, Michigan. The video showed Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson joining the march on Saturday, telling the crowd that they should turn the march into a “parade.”

Swanson told the Detroit Free Press that the situation came about when a crowd of protesters was seen marching on the sheriff’s office. 

Swanson said that he saw one of the officers have a friendly conversation with one of the protesters. This interaction prompted Swanson to remove his gear and approach one of the march’s organizers before joining the march.

“And I said, 'What else do I need to do?' and he said, 'Walk with us.' The best moment of my police career is when I said, 'Let's walk.' And we walked over a mile back to where it started and I could feel an instantaneous peace on both sides,” Swanson said. “That would not have happened if they had not wanted to listen to what I had to say as well, so it is mutually agreed upon that I need to hear what they are saying.”

More photos have been posted online of Swanson, along with other police officers, smiling and greeting protesters who joined the peaceful march on Saturday.

The sight of police and protesters marching together in Flint was seen as an inspiring moment during a tense time in the U.S.

In most cases, the interactions are visibly combative as protesters yell and throw rocks at police while officers fire tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds or indiscriminately arrest protesters and bystanders.

Swanson said that while doing what he did went against his training, it was the step that needed to be taken and is imploring other police departments to follow suit.

“Police leadership needs to take action on breaking down the first barrier. Police leadership, if they're not doing it already, come from behind your podiums, come from outside the conference rooms and the incident command centers, talk to the people,” Swanson said. “That is the difference. People that have something to say when nobody listens continues to be enraged and we are not going to fix the divide overnight, but you can see what happened instantaneously.”

Protesters in Detroit rally over the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota Protesters in Detroit rally over the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Matthew Hatcher