INDIANAPOLIS — When Monday night’s protest ended with demonstrators and police officers hugging and walking together near the governor’s mansion, it took many people by surprise.
Protestor Malik Muhammad said afterwards, “I never in a million years thought I would embrace a cop like that. I feel like our message was heard, by some at least.”
“Extremely encouraging. I wasn’t really sure how that was going to go, to be honest.” said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor.
As live cameras showed smiles and handshakes on the north side of Indianapolis, there was also skepticism about what the encounter could mean.
“I’m not sure what to believe,” said Muhammad. “If that was just him de-escalating the situation, us trying to de-escalate the situation and if so great, but we need that 100% of the time.”
Chief Taylor hopes the peaceful end to Monday’s demonstration will serve as a turning point for the community.
“Hopefully what occurred last night goes to build some better relationships there and opens the door for some of those conversations to occur.” said Taylor. “When we’re allowed to talk and have those kind of conversations, things can end well. So that’s really a victory, I think for both groups. For us and for them.”
Within an hour of the encounter, Black Lives Matter Indianapolis said on Twitter, “Making this real clear. We don’t shake hands with the enemy.”
Organizer with ANSWER Indiana Derek Ford said, “It was an empty gesture that only served a public relations agenda. The real gesture would be to meet the protest demands, beginning with the easiest: naming the officer who killed Dreasjon Reed.”
Sa’ra Skipper, an organizer with “Faith In Indiana” was at the Monday night demonstration. She questions how genuine the encounter was.
“It was good to see people hugging police and the police taking off their riot gear,” she said. “But my question was, ‘is this sincere’? Are you sincere about this, or are you doing this to go viral because you’re in front of the governor’s mansion?”
She said until demands for police reforms are met, she’s not ready to hug or shake the hand of an officer, but remains optimistic.
“Yesterday was something that I really wish this whole weekend could have been,” she said. “And to see that it happened yesterday just really really shows that it could have been this whole weekend.”
“It really showed that peace is possible. But it shouldn’t be possible with stipulations and circumstances. We need to see more of it, and we need to see people of color being treated as human beings,” said Skipper.