Taking a Knee, Calming a Crowd
Beverly Hills Police Department Sergeant Don Chase is a 19-year veteran of the force, with 31 years in law enforcement overall. That experience clearly played a role in turning around the collective anger of a crowd of protestors on June 2.
“I’ve been around a long time,” Chase said to cheering protestors who surrounded him after he took a knee in solidarity. The Courier’s exclusive video capturing the moment was later seen by millions of view- ers on Spectrum News 1.
Chase told the Courier that he never expected to receive notoriety from that day. “I’m on a motorcycle, one of the traffic supervisors. We were monitoring a group of protestors. One of the things we do is that we look at who is in the group, to see if anybody is posing a threat. I had parked several times and made them walk by me. I made a point of taking off my sunglasses and looking them in the eye,” he said.
The protestors marched past the Police Department and the Civic Center. They went by the Live Nation building, said Chase.
When it looked as if the protestors would be spending a few minutes there, Chase went into the station and brought out some water. He gave out a few cases of water to the protestors. He then followed the group through the business district.
“I would position myself ahead of them and stand near my cycle, not on it. I was having more contact with them. When they ended up on South Santa Monica, they sat down. We had to get rid of traffic in the area, so no one got hit by a car,” recalled Chase.
Realizing it was close to 1 p.m., Chase walked toward the protestors to tell them that the City curfew was approaching.
“I went to tell them that the curfew was about to start. They started chanting, ‘Take a knee. Take a knee.’ I did it without any hesitation. I thought it was a small gesture. I got encircled right away. I just listened to what they were saying. I wasn’t worried at all. I’ve been a police officer long enough,” said Chase.
He’s been an officer long enough to remember the civil unrest following theRodney King verdict in 1992.
“I experienced Rodney King when I was a brand new officer. I was somewhere else then, not in Beverly Hills. Back then, every time someone of color saw a white police officer, you knew what they were thinking,” said Chase.
This time, Chase listened attentively as one of the protestors animatedly explained the anger they felt. As Chase nodded, the crowd raised cell phones in the air to capture photos of him. Many moved to get close to him to take a photo with him. The air filled with the sound of “Thank you. Thank you,” and “We appreciate you so much Officer Chase.”
The group leader with whom Chase had been speaking to while kneeled proclaimed, “We’re going to honor your curfew. Thank you so much,” as the crowd chanted “Chase. Chase. Chase. Chase” in unison, fists up in the air.
By 1 p.m., the crowd dispersed. And 1992 was a distant memory.