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Protester who helped lead march up Meridian Street meets with Gov. Holcomb

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Days after a march up Meridian Street, one of the men who led the protesters met with Gov. Eric Holcomb for what both sides hope is another historic handshake.

“We haven’t been out here the last seven days for nothing,” said Malik Muhammad.

Muhammad’s figure is one you couldn’t forget Monday night.

Shield in hand, he helped lead the march up Meridian to the Governor’s Residence. He had a black bandanna over his mouth and a red bandanna to cover the still-bleeding gash on his forehead.

His handshake — and subsequent hug with — an Indianapolis police lieutenant defused a tense standoff in the street.

Now he hopes a different handshake with Holcomb makes a lasting difference, even as others at protests in the city may not agree.

Muhammad said he never thought he’d be back at the Governor’s Residence at 46th and Meridian streets, this time to be invited inside and meet with Holcomb.

“No, not at all,” Muhammad said.

But, four days later, here he was, speaking exclusively with News 8 outside the gate after a long discussion about a legislative agenda and other priorities. Muhammad said the talk included discussion of an abolishment of knee and chokeholds, as well as making an officer’s record of violence more public so he or she cannot just move to another state or police force and get a clean slate. Closest to his heart was discussion of getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences.

The meeting was made possible thanks to a friend Muhammad made earlier this week who also knows Holcomb.

“I don’t believe it was an appeasement. I believe it was it was an outreach,” Muhammad said. “If he was doing it just to appease, there would have been press in the room. It wouldn’t have been a closed door meeting.”

Muhammad is just 23 years old.

For three years, he served in the Army, a specialist in a tank before an honorable discharge.

Now he has a small dairy farm in Delaware County, motivated to the career by what he saw at an FFA convention when he was working at the Indiana Convention Center. It’s an effort to fulfill his dream for generational wealth and land.

“That’s what I want for myself and my son,” Muhammad said.

But every day for a week, he has come to Indianapolis.

His walk down the street Monday night with a police lieutenant garnered a lot of attention.

But even that night, it was clear other members in the Black Lives Matter movement did not like his gesture, as some said on a loudspeaker, “I’m not shaking hands with no cops.”

“That was the way to get home alive that night,” Muhammad said, adding that it doesn’t hurt that people question that decision. “Not really. It’s a thankless service. You just do.”

Muhammad said very few know the conversation he had with officers that night. He’s fine if others have different viewpoints of his actions.

“If you’re for the movement, you can have your opinion and you can voice your opinion because we’ve all got a voice.”

But now his voice has reached the governor’s ear.

“If we’re not on our elected officials, then nothing is going to change.”

Muhammad said you may not be able to protest and you may not be able to donate money, but you can network and spread the message to your friends and acquaintances, and especially the lawmakers who represent you.

Holcomb released this statement on Friday night:

“Historic journeys take historic first steps. Malik and I took one, together, today.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb, Republican