The back of a demonstrator’s pickup became a makeshift podium Tuesday evening as Lancaster city police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser told several hundred protesters, “We’re listening to you.”
In uniform and wearing a bulletproof vest, the square-jawed Berkihiser interrupted a festive moment in front of police headquarters, 39 W. Chestnut St., where scores of protesters were doing line dances to tunes blasting from the pickup’s sound system.
“All of our minds ache right now, and that’s everybody in this community, police officers, white, black, Hispanic,” Berkihiser said on the fourth night of peaceful protests in Lancaster after a Minneapolis black man was killed in police custody. “We’re all dealing with it. We’re working on making changes. I’m committed to making changes.”
But the chief asked for patience.
“It’s going to take a long time,” Berkihiser said. “But we’re working it. We’re working it hard. And not just my agency. Every police agency within this county is listening to you. Their chiefs are listening to you.”
The chief commended the demonstrators for confronting someone the previous night who seemed to want to make trouble. He asked them to continue to be alert for agitators.
Takes a knee
“Don’t get in fights with them,” he said. “Just put them on notice that you see them, that you know they’re here, that you recognize that they’re not here for the same purpose.”
“Please enjoy yourselves. Please stay peaceful,” he said to applause and cheers.
After climbing off the pickup, Berkihiser kneeled, and most people in the crowd joined him in the symbolic gesture of solidarity for black men killed by police officers.
Moments later, however, the mood soured as a young woman replaced Berkihiser on the back of the pickup, suggested that Berkihiser was engaged in a media tour and questioned the lack of female officers.
“What are you doing to keep your men off our women?” the woman said, addressing the crowd. “You can bring in state troopers … but you can’t bring female officers in so your men can’t touch us?”
On Sunday, the city called in state police troopers in case of trouble, but they remained on hold a couple of blocks away from the protest.
As the woman spoke, Berkihiser was standing before TV news cameras answering reporters’ questions.
The truck was backed up to bring the woman closer to where the interview was happening.
“How would he feel if his daughter was being searched by his officers?” the woman said, trying to get Berkihiser’s attention. “Ask him that in your interview.”
Berkihiser finished the interview and walked into the police station without acknowledging the woman or her concerns.
Later in the evening, a man walked into the police station to turn in a brick.
City councilwoman Amanda Bakay said there were reports of bricks scattered among the crowd.
Staff reporter Sean Sauro contributed to this report.
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