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Woman who knelt with officers wishes more would have done the same

This happened during Monday's protest in Grand Rapids
Posted at 5:24 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 17:24:01-04

GRAND RAPIDS — Protesters, taking to downtown Grand Rapids Monday afternoon and our FOX 17 camera’s caught a touching exchange between one woman and law enforcement. It’s something we’re starting to see more of across the country.

The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, could be seen kneeling with a sheriff’s deputy and police officer right outside the Grand Rapids Children's Museum in front of a National Guard vehicle.

She tells us that she was out there that day and Saturday, protesting for her family, which is something she hopes officers will do with her from now on.

Monday, many protesters could be seen standing toe-to-toe with the National Guard surrounding the Grand Rapids Police Department, but on the other side of Fulton St., things looked a little calmer.

The woman said, “It was easier to approach them on that side, obviously because there was less crowd.

She describes what happened during that exchange.

“He told me that he was with me, he told me he was with us, and he understood and I appreciate that, but I wanted him to turn around to those other police officers and have them sit with us, have them show that they are united with us,” she said.

She calls the moment a good one, but wishes more would have joined in.

She said, “They were too proud to kneel with the people they were sworn to protect, too proud to show respect and unity. It’s heartbreaking.”

It’s all an emotional time for law enforcement too.

Kent County Sheriff, Michelle LaJoye Young said,”We are tired, but we are dedicated to supporting the community and the safety concerns of the community, but also to move forward.”

LaJoye Young added that the weight of this moment is not lost on her deputies.

“It’s certainly a difficult time to just even watch in our own community, people hurting and to watch people struggling with the concepts of social injustice,” she said.

LaJoye Young said that hears what protesters are saying about the message officers wearing riot gear sends, but wants them to understand that officers have to be prepared for every situation

“You’re looking at an officer that is fully geared up for an entire day, and he looks off-putting by the uniform and by the equipment, but on the same token, if that officer does not have what they need available to them on their hands, then at the next moment someone could be at severe personal risk and they don’t have the resources to help,” she said.

She went on to say that all law enforcement is eager to make meaningful progress, but the conversation just needs to happen in a different setting.

She said, “When we get to a point where we are talking again about it again instead of screaming at each other, that’s one we really make the best progress.”

And for the woman who knelt with officers Monday, that means accountability and perhaps this is all a promising start.

She said, “To me it was touching, because not all officers are bad, not all police are bad and we know that and we understand that, but we are in a situation where we have to weigh ‘not all cops are bad cops’ vs. ‘until good cops hold bad cops responsible, then there are no good cops.”

There is another protest planned for Wednesday afternoon outside the GRPD, where Police Chief Eric Payne has already announced that he will be standing with those protesters.