When Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol took over security detail of the Ferguson, Missouri, demonstrations today, Thursday, Aug. 14, he promised things would be different under his command.
“We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we’re in this together,” Johnson told the press. “I understand the anger and fear that the citizens of Ferguson are feeling, and our officers will respect both of those.”
But no one probably expected that video would surface, just hours into his duty, of Johnson and a protester embracing while the two marched together down the streets of the captain's hometown.
The unified march was a far cry from earlier today, when protesters and media alike complained of officers decked out in riot gear intimidating the protesters and firing tear gas in their direction.
The change in command of security detail came after four consecutive nights of violence, looting, and protesters clashing with police. Many of the media, and those on social media, became worried that situation would not get better any time soon.
Or worse, escalate.
Fortunately, the addition of Johnson to head of security, and his calm and cool approach to dealing with the demonstrators has appeared to have shifted the tide of the protests towards the better.
This sentiment emphasized by a photo of Johnson leading protesters marching down a street in Ferguson that went viral and statement on Twitter from Ferguson Alderman, Antonio French; a man who has been on the front lines of the protests since they began.
"Leadership matters," tweeted French. "Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson's impact already being felt."
While most people have found the police's new approach to watching over the protests a blessing, some are still worried as to how the captain will react when faced with his first situation of adversity or violence from the crowd. But, for now, most agree that this new, albeit possibly temporary, peace between the police and demonstrators is a welcome breath of relief and hope that peace in the streets can come.
While no one knows for sure whether or not this peaceful understanding between police and protesters will continue into the night and early morning hours, Johnson has assured protesters that there will be no more curfew; their officers will not be wearing gas masks, and the protesters are free to stay as long as they like.
Here's hoping to a quiet night in Ferguson, Missouri.