A Minnesota National Guard member who moved police and the military away from a protest in the state capitol offered advice on Thursday to law enforcement officials across the United States: Reach across the line.
“I found that tremendously successful. Just literally take your glove off and your helmet off, and stick your hand out and introduce yourself,” Lt. Col. Sam Andrews told ABC News.
“I mean that really speaks volumes about restraint and legitimacy and de-escalation,” he added. “When you know someone’s name, when you introduce yourself, you can actually start the conversation. You can start to listen and hope that you’re able to hear what the person standing in front of you has to say.”
Andrews was at the State House in St. Paul Monday evening when he was caught on video kneeling with protesters and telling them he would move police and the National Guard away before asking them to respect their property and equipment in return.
“My heart hurts as a human being,” he said Monday, referring to the death of George Floyd.
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Andrews said it was the second day in which he removed law enforcement from the capitol and the third that he spent engaging with protesters.
“I had some really pretty tense interactions on the 30th of May,” he said. “I took my helmet and body armor off to engage the crowd… And then listened, conversed and shook hands… The next day, when the peaceful demonstration came back, they asked to have their voices heard, and we removed our presence from the front of the capitol.”
Andrews said taking such actions have been necessary for the Minnesota National Guard, which has “started to make better choices about how we represent ourselves in the community in terms of lowering our physical presence in the community as well as lowering the type of equipment that we’re wearing.”
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