LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) - For a third straight night, protesters gathered in Lynchburg to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Tuesday night, they gathered in front of Liberty University to protest against LU president, Jerry Falwell Jr., after he recently sent a racially insensitive tweet.
Everyone has seen the images of police and protesters violently clashing with each other across the country. While events could have turned that way Tuesday night, instead, police and protesters had a different kind of encounter.
The crowd of people grew all afternoon outside the campus of Liberty University along Wards Road. There were signs, passionate yelling, “No justice. No peace.” They held fists in the air.
At one point a protester, Liberty University student Coleman Powers, left the crowd, walking alone to the entrance where campus police stood guard. Tension was felt as he and Liberty Police Major Marcus Tinsley had a conversation.
When Powers came back to the crowd he said, “Hey listen. He’s going to come down and talk to us. This man is on our side. He supports us. He loves us. He wants to take care of us. He wants to protect all of you. He wants to come down and he wants to talk to you guys.”
There were shouts of support. One woman yelled that she wanted to hear what he had to say.
“I’m here to tell you that I appreciate ya’ll being here,” Tinsely said. “And that all of these guys back here and me standing here, if those uniforms weren’t there we’d all look the same.”
He spoke to protesters for over 20 minutes, doing more listening than talking.
“No one is calling anyone out individually, other than the people who have blatantly committed evil acts such as stepping on the neck of someone as if they cannot breathe, as if they are a machine,” one person said. “My friend was killed by someone, not going to say any names,” another woman said. “But I want to be out here safe. If I have a child, I want them to be safe.”
“What we have to do is educate each other,” a young man and former LU student, said. “You have to educate your cops to what protocol is. You should not be in fear for your lie because of me, because you have trained for this. You are trained for what to do.”
“We will move forward from this,” Tinsley said when everyone had finished. “How that looks and what that looks like, we’re going to need y’all’s help with that. But we will move forward from this.”
Then the group prayed together, eyes closed, heads bowed.
"Thank you for that understanding," Tinsley prayed. "Thank you for Jesus. And in his name we pray, Amen."
Afterwards he hugged protesters, then invited his fellow officers to come down to do the same, turning two groups into one.
“Get to know somebody,” he said, smiling as officers shook hands with the crowd, “Get to know somebody new and make a change in this world.”