Police stun Americans — by taking a knee with protesters
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by Daniel Woolls
They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the nation in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by President Donald Trump.
As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody.
“I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night,” Chris Swanson, the white sheriff in Flint, Michigan, shouted to a group of protesters on Saturday.
Then Swanson did just that, setting off walking with them, to cheers. He even posed for a selfie with a young black protester and gave the thumbs-up sign.
In Des Moines, Iowa, police chief Dana Wingert took a knee before a crowd of demonstrators along with other officers and explained it this way: “Us joining them in a symbolic way, that’s the least we can do.”
Anti-racism demonstrators across the country have embraced the gesture made famous by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick who began kneeling during pre-game renditions of the national anthem in 2016, to protest police brutality against blacks and other minorities.
Kaepernick was ostracized by the NFL over his kneeling protest, which earned him and likeminded athletes condemnation and insults from conservatives including Trump.
Now, the police are emulating the protesters emulating the quarterback turned civil rights activist.
In an intense scene captured on camera Monday in New York, the city’s white police chief Terence Monahan knelt and clenched hands with protest leaders, arms raised high, as a way to show support and shared outrage at Floyd’s death.
“Moments like that are how I know we will find a way through,” tweeted the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, in response.
Similar scenes have played out in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia — as well as in the capital Washington.
Leading politicians have adopted the gesture, from Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden to the mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, who dropped to a knee along with a line of officers as they mingled with demonstrators near city hall on Tuesday. (AFP)