Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus, noted for his community policing efforts, raised a few eyebrows when he joined a peaceful protest earlier this week, holding a sign with the popular Twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Magnus and other police department brass stood shoulder to shoulder with other community members in a protest against police brutality in his city on Tuesday.
The Tuesday afternoon protest, one of many in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, was organized by a Richmond youth center.
Magnus said he attended to show the department's commitment to peaceful protest and that minority lives matter.
The last-minute demonstration organized by the RYSE Youth Center drew more than 100 people, including city council members and police officials, along MacDonald Avenue near 41st Street protesting deadly police force against unarmed "black and brown men," said RYSE Executive Director Kimberly Aceves.
While other Bay Area cities have erupted into sometimes violent or disruptive protests following the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and 43-year-old Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, Tuesday's demonstration was the first in Richmond and was free of any damage, traffic disruption or arrests, according to police and organizers.
Aceves said her organization decided to hold the protest to give community members a "space to grieve and have a conversation" about the recent events.
"For us, it was building on a national momentum," she said.
The protest was also notable for the direct, non-confrontational involvement of police officers, including the city's police chief, who stood for several hours alongside protesters holding signs and chanting, according to Aceves.
Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan said police wanted to attend the demonstration not only to keep the peace, but also to show solidarity with the demonstrators.
"People have a real need to have their voices heard, and when that is stifled, it magnifies the problems," said Gagan, who was among the officers who took part in today's demonstration.
Aceves said seeing some of the department's top brass participating in the protest came as a surprise but that she believes their sentiments were genuine.
"I think symbolically, when there's some much division between communities and police departments, to have the highest ranking members of the department hold signs for 4.5 hours...I felt like it was definitely legitimate," she said.
The police even ordered pizza for some protesters, including many who stood for nearly five hours to symbolize the length of time Michael Brown's body lay on the sidewalk following his fatal shooting, Aceves said.
While she credited Magnus's progressive approach to policing and his commitment to building a positive relationship between the city's youth and police, she cautioned that there is still work to be done.
"This is a good symbolic step, but we have to continue to roll up our sleeves and figure out how young people can stay safe in our communities and feel like RPD is there to protect them as well," Aceves said.
She said the RYSE Center plans to hold future actions regarding police brutality against people of color.
The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.