Omar the Cop and the Protestor

While I was on duty during one of the protests in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, my African-American brother was inches from my face, shouting at me in rage.

He was shirtless, yoked, sweating, and ready to throw down. My face shield started accumulating his spit as he yelled, all the while he was rocking side-to-side in anger. I wasn’t the only officer facing a protestor’s rage.

Along with about fifty of my fellow police officers, I stood on the skirmish line at Sunset Boulevard and Argyle Avenue in Hollywood. There were at least a thousand protestors in front of us. Let me tell you, the power of over a thousand voices all shouting in unison for a just cause is a charged experience. It was something I had only seen in news stories in various parts of the world. I could feel the propelling energy of all those voices.

There I stood, baton in hand, helmet on my head, badge on my chest, as a proud reserve police officer in my City of Angels.

To my African-American brother yelling at me, I represented all that was, and is, wrong with policing in various parts of our country. It is indeed what has been wrong for centuries in our country.

“You f’in racist cop! How many of my people have YOU murdered!? Why are you brutalizing my people!”

By this point, my adrenaline outweighed my fear, and I gathered my wits.

A voice in my head told me to share with this brother that I agreed with him. I agreed that police brutality was a problem; I agreed with him that our nation has not dealt with the legacy of slavery; I agreed with the spirit of what he was saying.

So I shouted back at him, “Brother, I agree with you!”

His yelling stopped on a dime, and he looked at me eyes-wide opened shocked.

I let go of my drawn baton with my left hand, put my hand to my heart, then motioned it towards him and said, slowly and loudly again, “I…AGREE…WITH YOU!”

SubhanAllah (the Muslim word for “all praises are due to God”), how God has designed the human emotion and spirit.

In that moment, time slowed just a bit, and the chants weren’t as loud.

In that moment, you could see the rage dissipate from this brother, starting from his eyes and working its way down his face and to the rest of his body.

In that moment, he seemed relieved he didn’t need to be enraged, with me at least, for being so, undoubtedly takes a toll on a person’s soul.

In that moment, there was a human connection.

The brother stepped away from me and then faded back into the thousands.

Here’s the thing, I wasn’t the only cop on the skirmish line that did that. There were lots of other LAPD cops that did the same and did so authentically. I don’t know of a single cop that isn’t outraged by what happened in Minneapolis.

Lots more happened on that day which maybe I’ll share at a later point, but at least this one moment I wanted to memorialize and share.

May God guide and protect our country and all of its people.

Omar Ricci is a reserve officer of the Los Angeles Police Department. He serves in various capacities on the board of the Islamic Center of Southern California and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

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