"I'm With You;" Genesee County Sheriff Who Marched With Protesters In Show of Solidarity Speaks Out

By WWJ Newsradio 950

(WWJ) The Genesee County Sheriff marched with the protesters in Flint Township in a show of solidarity for those fighting for equality and justice. 

Genesee County Sheriff, Chris Swanson, approached a group of peaceful protesters with open arms Saturday evening.

"(The protesters) want to see unity," Swanson said during a live interview on WWJ. 

A video shows him express his support for the protesters. 

“We want to be with you all for real,” Swanson said. “So I took my helmet off, I laid the batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest.”

The crowd erupted in applause.

“We got little ones here, we got dogs. These cops love you. You tell us what you need to do,” Swanson said.

“Walk with us! Walk with us!” the crowd chanted.

The protesters were fighting for justice for George Floyd; and many African American men and women, even teenagers; who lost their lives at the hands of police officers including Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. 

Swanson said he did not plan to walk with the protesters originally. 

"Everybody in the world has seen an 8 minute and 45 second video of horrific police action, and we are not that..." Swanson said on WWJ. "(The protesters) marched toward the police department and I saw the turn of events happen by the second. It was highly contentious; it was highly volatile." 

He said he realized he needed to talk to them instead. He hugged the organizer of the protest, and told him; "Bro, that's not who we are." 

"And he (the organizer) said tell the people. Get their attention, holler out," Swanson told WWJ's Rob Mason. "And I started talking, and they saw the heart. And I said these cops don't want any problems. They're human beings."

Swanson said the "final straw" was a "historic moment in Flint, Michigan." 

"It's when I said walk with us. And they walked. What they wanted was a voice, and they want action. And that was a glorious moment." 

This may be the key to keeping the peace during nationwide protests, Swanson said. 

"Law enforcement needs to set the tone from the beginning," he told WWJ. "...Law enforcement has to start by laying down their swords, and having a conversation with the people who are trying send a message. Come from behind podiums, conference rooms, come from inside intell centers and walk with them." 

They walked a mile and a half and remained there for nearly four hours until almost midnight; according to Swanson. 

No one was arrested or injured. All it took, Swanson said, was showing them a little "vulnerability." 

"Dropping my weapon and moving into the crowd was probably the least tactical movement I could do," Swanson said. "But it wasn't about that. They had to have someone step up and say, I hear what you're saying and I'm with you." 

“Where do you want to go?” Swanson asked the protesters. “We’ll walk all night!”