A Michigan sheriff captured in a viral video marching with protestors over the weekend told “America’s Newsroom” on Monday that “when the protesters see the heart of the police, that's when they’ll start listening, but the burden falls on us.”
“We have to start the dialogue and we got to make the change,” Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson added.
Swanson made the comments following protests across the country sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis cop, Derek Chauvin, was seen kneeling on his neck in a viral video.
Chauvin has been fired and charged with third-degree murder, and the federal Justice Department has been investigating the case. Crowds across the nation have seized on the racially charged incident to demand justice, but the protests have devolved into riots in many cities, culminating in a weekend of carnage.
In Flint Township, Mich., Swanson encouraged a group of protesters to come together with law enforcement to mend their relationship with the community.
"I want to make this a parade, not a protest," Swanson can be heard saying on a video captured of the scene on Saturday.
"These cops love you. That cop over there hugs people," he said pointing to a colleague.
Demonstrators began chanting "walk with us," and Swanson obliged.
"Let's walk," he said joining the march.
The video has been viewed on Twitter more than 12 million times.
MICHIGAN SHERIFF JOINS PROTESTORS IN EFFORT TO MEND COMMUNITY AMID HIGH TENSION: 'LET'S WALK'
On Monday Swanson described what was going on in his mind at the time.
“We saw a clash and that clash was met with officers in riot gear from our office and Flint Township Police Department, who was the lead,” Swanson said.
“And as they were coming to the police department and I was walking towards them, I'm thinking, ‘How did we get here? How did we erase in one eight-minute, 40-second video all of the good work that’s done for community relations?’ That day, it changed community policing.”
“So when the folks came up and there was so much tension and rightly so, it’s righteous anger, I saw a fist bump with Flint Township Officer Miller and I saw a small little hug like in the side of my eye … and then I said, ‘That's it.’ I took off my helmet, they laid down the batons [and] I walked in the middle of the crowd,” he described.
Host Ed Henry asked Swanson, “How do you get the protesters to meet you halfway and still respect law enforcement and still respect police and not believe that you're all bad?”
“First of all, cops have to do the right thing. They have to be held accountable,” Swanson said in response.
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He added, “The people have to know that the trust falls on us, the police ourselves, first.”
“Second, you have to make those community inroads all the time,” he continued. “We got to get from behind our podiums, our conference rooms, from our offices into the community every single day.”
Fox News’ Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.