SALT LAKE CITY — The mother of a Salt Lake City police officer who knelt with protesters outside of the department during Monday’s demonstration said he did it to “show he cared.”
Amid the chanting, marching and cries for justice Monday night that began in Washington Square, protesters called on officers to “kneel with us” as they surrounded Salt Lake City police headquarters.
Officer Metui Tuatua’a accepted the invitation.
“I knew that he didn’t do that for a photo op,” said Ruth, the proud mother of officer Tuatua’a.
She said the photo and video of him kneeling with protesters captured who the man is behind the mask he was wearing.
“I knew that he knelt down with the protesters, that they needed to understand that he was there for them,” she said. “That he was with them and he felt for them. It wasn’t any kind of show. It was a heartfelt thing.”
Protesters erupted in applause at the sight of an officer kneeling. At least four others also knelt in solidarity.
“The whole department should have come out there like he did,” one of the protest organizers said afterward.
“It means that someone heard us,” another organizer said. “It means that someone has the respect to hear, and we do appreciate that.”
On Tuesday, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown expressed his thoughts.
“I was proud of them,” Brown said. “If they want to take a knee, that’s encouraging and that’s helpful.”
It’s helpful in a time of so much hurt and anger across the state and country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“I believe it was murder,” said Ruth, speaking of Floyd’s death. “I have no words to describe how vile that is.”
Just two days before officer Tuatua’a took a knee, he was facing protesters on the same Salt Lake City streets when the protest turned ugly. Some began rioting, setting a police car on fire and stealing from some stores. Others hurled rocks and bottles at responding officers like Ruth’s son.
I was proud of them. If they want to take a knee, that’s encouraging and that’s helpful,
–Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown
“I looked at that crowd and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, if this gets more out of hand that small amount of policemen is not going to do anything,’” Ruth said. “I would have to say that nobody hates a bad cop more than the good cops.”
She said she stands with those calling for justice, but she also hopes that as they’re out demonstrating that they recognize her son is someone’s brother, someone’s husband and a little girl’s father.
“Metui has always wanted to be a policeman,” she said. “Not so he could have power, but so he could serve and help people and protect them.”