Greenville Sheriff responds to weekend protests

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)–As protests continue across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, law enforcement agencies here in the Upstate are looking to effect change.

Sheriff Hobart Lewis talked with protesters over the weekend and even took a knee at their request. He said the community can count on him to move change forward.

Protesters flooded the streets of Greenville over the weekend, and Sheriff Lewis stood alongside them.

“It was a defining moment, I was going to speak to the crowd and thank them for what they were doing, they started chanting take a knee take a knee. I said I’ll take a knee but we’ll take a knee together,” Lewis said.

He said it was important for him to be part of the conversation to move toward change.

“You don’t know what I’m thinking unless you ask me and I get a chance to tell you and you listen. I don’t know what you’re thinking unless you respond and talk to me and I listen. I don’t think we do enough listening,” Lewis said.

He said following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he was shocked.

“It made no sense, but for 7 or 8 or 9 minutes, it’s crazy. There’s no reasonable explanation whatsoever,” Lewis said.

He said this should cause every law enforcement agency to take a hard look at it’s use of force policies.

“We train people you don’t do those things. And the most important thing honestly with George Floyd’s death, he has just taught law enforcement, this is why we don’t do this,” Lewis said.

He said he can promise Greenville that when a sheriff’s deputy shows up to help they’ll be held to the highest standards.

“If there’s a penalty to be placed on a deputy, if we need to correct his behavior, if we need to punish him even up to termination, or charge him, we would certainly do that,” Lewis said.

So what makes this different than previous acts of police brutality toward unarmed black men?

“What i can tell you is now I’m the sheriff and I’m committed to doing something about it. That’s what’s different.”

The sheriff is working on bringing law enforcement and local activists together for a conversation on how to move forward. He said he sees those meetings happening for years to come.

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