By Thursday afternoon, Denzel Washington was trending on social media after a video of him surfaced where he appears to be intervening in a police-involved encounter.
Former basketball player Rex Chapman posted the video to Twitter, writing, “Denzel Washington saw a commotion in West Hollywood with cops and an unarmed distressed homeless man. He got out of his car and served as a barrier between the man and the police — helping to diffuse a tense situation. This man was arrested safely.”
Washington received praise from people on social media.
“I applaud Denzel for doing this. It shouldn’t have to be the case because this still could have gone left. But unlike some celebs who want to victim blame today, he actually stepped in and did something,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Thank you Denzel Washington for stepping in when you did who know what would of happened to that homeless man if you hadn’t intervene [sic] when you did,” wrote another user.
The Washington footage comes at a trying time for many Black people, considering the back-to-back videos showing police terror and brutality across the county.
Most recently, protests have ignited after George Floyd‘s death. Floyd was caught on video pinned to the ground with officer Derek Chauvin‘s knee on his neck. Despite cries that he couldn’t breathe, Chauvin’s knee remained pinned to Floyd’s neck and he eventually died.
Chauvin was fired along with three other officers involved and the incident is now being investigated by state and federal authorities. Floyd’s family is calling for murder charges against all of the officers involved.
The incident with Floyd is nothing new. Similar tragedies have continued across the U.S., many of which never make it to film. Floyd’s death especially brought back memories of Eric Garner, who was killed when officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold while arresting him. Garner was also caught on video yelling, “I can’t breathe.”
Along with the deaths, police violence has continually reached national news, especially during a time of coronavirus-related lockdowns. Countless videos have shown police brutally interacting with Black pedestrians, supposedly over social distancing and protective mask mandates, yet white people haven’t been met with the same scrutiny.
Some social media users who’ve watched Washington’s video acknowledge that his celebrity status privileges him in ways that aren’t afforded to everyday Black citizens. However, they were grateful for his deed nonetheless.
“We shouldn’t need a goddamned celebrity to deescalate a situation with the police,” one user wrote. “But I guess he’s the hero we needed.”