The police chief of Richmond, CA, Chris Magnus, joined a protest against alleged police brutality in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY on Tuesday while holding a sign reading “#blacklivesmatter.” Roughly 100 fellow protesters held signs while they listened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches.
A photograph of Magnus went viral, according to the Contra Costa Times. After the protest finished, Magnus commented, “I spoke with my command staff, and we agreed it would be nice to convey our commitment to peaceful protest and that black and brown lives do matter. And to help bridge the gap that we understand sometimes exists between police and community around certain issues.”
Magnus decided to take a position on the matter, despite having tweeted in the past that his police department did not get involved in politics:
Guess who we endorse for ANYTHING?NO ONE!RPD stays clear of politics.Friendly reminder that unions at the PD are not the same AS the PD!
— Chris Magnus (@RPDChiefMagnus) October 24, 2014
He had also tweeted his endorsement of a New Yorker piece about the events in Ferguson that targeted the Ferguson police. That piece began, “Nothing that happened in Ferguson, Missouri, on the fourth night since Michael Brown died at the hands of a police officer there, dispelled the notion that this is a place where law enforcement is capable of gross overreaction.” Magnus tweeted:
Well written account of depressing events in Ferguson, MO that raise troubling questions for law enforcement: http://t.co/BL6qrQ0W0D
— Chris Magnus (@RPDChiefMagnus) August 14, 2014
A local youth group organized the protest; its members promised to stand with the “hands up” gesture as a tribute to the false narrative that Michael Brown of Ferguson was shot by Officer Darren Wilson with his hands up. They said they would stand with their hands up for 4½ hours because Brown lay on the street for that period of time after he died.
Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown lauded Magnus for joining the protest, according to the Times, saying, “We get the conversation about use of force, we get it. This is an opportunity for all police departments, including ours, to look inward and examine our approaches and get better.”
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and council members Jael Myrick, Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt also attended the protest. Butt, the incoming mayor, had initially opposed the protest, before joining in along with the police chief and fellow officials.
Image: Jane Vandenburgh/Twitter