MATTHEWS, N.C. (WBTV) - A peaceful march through Matthews offered a glimpse at the gap between the Black Lives Matter movement and the police community, even when both groups are appalled at the conduct of officers in the killing of George Floyd.
The march started at Aldi and ended at Matthew Town Hall where speeches were given by Mayor John Higdon and other community leaders.
But it was the words of Police Chief Clark Pennington and former Butler High School student Camille Harvell that showed how far police have to go to regain the trust of some in the black community.
Not even minutes after Chief Pennington condemned the actions of the officers in the death of George Floyd, Harvell said that the damage done by other departments has an impact locally too.
“I want you to know that when I look into the audience and see the officers of the Matthews Police Department I do not feel safe,” Harvell said. “I want you to know that when I see them, I see the countless number of black men and women that died at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and serve them.”
That came just moments after Pennington told the protesters that he and his officers supported their cause.
“The men and women who wear this uniform and stand with you in this crowd are just as upset with the actions of those men as you are,” Pennington said. “Remember nothing upsets a good cop like seeing a bad cop degrade the trust of our community.”
For Harvell, the recent deaths of black citizens at the hands of police has cast a shadow over any badge.
“I refuse to thank you for your bravery because it is not brave to kill innocent human beings,” Harvell said. “I want you to know that today you lost my trust and my faith.”
Pennington added in his speech that even before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis his department had updated its standards of conduct so that officers who witness unlawful, unethical behavior must stop it and report to the supervisor. He also said they changed their use of force policy to ban chokeholds.
Mayor John Higdon also said that there will come a time that the unlawful killing of black citizens by police will be met with termination, charges and maybe even the death penalty.
Harvell echoed that elected officials need to take a stand.
“Stop thinking about yourself and the politics of the situation. Instead, show your black citizens you believe they matter,” Harvell said.