Michigan sheriff joins protesters marching over George Floyd death

A Michigan sheriff on Saturday joined a group of protesters marching to express outrage over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while in police custody.

The scene came as violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police were documented from Los Angeles to New York City and as some states activated the National Guard to control the escalating unrest.

In Flint Township, hundreds of people gathered outside the police headquarters during a march that took them throughout the city, ABC 12 reported. As they crowded outside the facility, the group was met by Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, who said that law enforcement wanted to stand in solidarity with the protesters. 

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"We want to be with y'all for real," Swanson said, pointing to officers standing behind him. "I took my helmet off, they laid their batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest."

"I’m just telling you, these cops love you. You tell us what you need to do," he added, prompting the group to chant, "walk with us." 

"Let's walk," Swanson replied, prompting audible cheers from the crowd. Video showed the sheriff then walking with protesters through the street and taking selfies. He could also be seen giving high-fives.

Swanson later that night describe the march as "magic," noting that no arrests were made and no property damage had been reported that day in the city.  

"We can’t forget on all our police cars across the nation, it says protect and serve," he said. "That means all people deserve the same dignity and you can’t call out what’s wrong and try to make it right. And that’s the magic we saw tonight. We marched, not one ounce of damage, nobody’s arrested, nobody got hurt, this is the way it’s supposed to be."

The march stood in sharp contrast to many of the protests that have devolved into violence and destruction of property in recent days. Several cities instituted curfews due to the mounting tensions and at least 12 states deployed the National Guard. 

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Floyd, 46, died Monday shortly after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while executing an arrest. Footage of the arrest showed the officer, Derek Chauvin, keeping his knee pinned to Floyd's neck as Floyd repeatedly said "I cannot breathe."

The incident prompted widespread outrage nationwide, with many speaking out about the larger trend of police violence against African Americans. 

Chauvin and three other officers were terminated following the arrest. Chauvin has also been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death.