NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — As millions of people nationwide continue to rally for justice and reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death, one local protest over the weekend had a welcome surprise.
Floyd died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was captured on video pinning his neck to the ground with his knee until Floyd was unconscious. Chauvin has since been charged with murder and manslaughter.
New Bedford residents Shakira Duarte, Seanna Brum and Christian Romero worked together to organize a Black Lives Matter protest in the city and the police officer who was patrolling the event ended up joining it.
“We are peacefully protesting. We’re not rioting, or causing violence … as a community, we all came together,” Brum said.
The organizers said they drew about 200 people to the protest, including the officer.
“The officer was with us literally the entire day, the first day of the protest, didn’t bother us at all. It was more of like, ‘hey, I just want to make sure you guys are safe,'” Duarte recalled.
“We asked him, ‘OK, if you’re here with us all day, can you at least kneel with us? So that we know you’re with us? So that you know why we’re protesting?” she continued.
The officer did just that, taking a knee in a moment of solidarity as the crowd applauded his action.
“We were so happy and so proud,” Duarte added.
In a statement, New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro shared the sentiment of coming together.
“We continue to condemn the horrific action and inaction of police officers in Minneapolis that lead to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. We are proud of the collaborative approach that was taken during protests here over the weekend in the midst of what’s happening across this country, New Bedford remains true to its history as a city that embraces diversity and equity.”Joseph Cordeiro, New Bedford Police Chief
Duarte said the unity goes to show how they’re against police brutality — not against the police.
“We’re not here to go against the police, that’s not what it is at all,” she said. “We are here to go against the police who are doing the wrong thing, because the policemen that were standing with us for the last couple of days have done nothing but be with us and make sure we are good to protest.”