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Kneeling now the symbol of protest for this generation, and an act of unity between protesters, police

Protesters kneeing
Colin Kaepernick
Protester and deputy kneeling
Lorain Police kneeling
Cleveland protesters kneeling
Posted at 4:31 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-08 16:02:22-04

CLEVELAND — In the midst of violent protests across the country, something simple and symbolic is slowing people down: protesters and police are kneeling, together.

"It's extraordinarily powerful,” said Case Western Law Professor Bryan Adamson. "One of the ultimate forms of humility."

But kneeling wasn't always seen that way to everyone. Most notably, the uproar over Colin Kaepernick’s protest on the NFL sidelines in 2016.

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick and teammates kneel on the sidelines during a game in 2016.

Adamson says people lost sight of the original message.

"The kneeling did not mean, ‘I hate America’ or ‘I am anti-American’ or ‘I don't believe in the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.

At the time, Kaepernick said he was kneeling in protest to “how we treat people and the oppression and the injustices that go on."

Now, four years later, police and protesters are kneeling together.

Protester and deputy kneeling
A protester kneels with a member of the sheriff's department and shakes his hand in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"It is remarkable that we see members of law enforcement, members of the military, taking a knee with the demonstrators,” Adamson said.

One local example is from earlier this week, when the police chief of the Lorain Police Department took a knee with marchers.

Lorain Police kneeling
Lorain police officers kneeling with protesters earlier this week.

Last Saturday in Cleveland, some protesters knelt down in front of the justice center before moving on.

"It just seemed like everybody was on one accord,” said Arshawna Warren, who marched in the protest. “We all kneeled together. And it was very peaceful."

Cleveland protesters kneeling
Protesters in Cleveland kneeling during last Saturday's protest.

Adamson said kneeling is the symbol of this generation's protests.

“I think that the people who are protesting now never forgot,” he said. “And, that, for them, it had all the important meanings."

As the world watches the protests across the U.S., Adamson said there is one reason this is happening now.

“People are recognizing, we can't continue like this,” he said. “That we have to begin some type of reconciliation and healing."