Black National Guardsman seen in viral D.C. protest video speaks out: ‘I’m a Black man, first, before I put on this uniform’

EXCLUSIVE: Khaled Abdelghany, a 32-years-old guardsman, says he is taking steps to get people in uniform to step up and fight injustices against Black people

Khaled Abdelghany

In cities across the United States, protesters have taken over the streets to make their demands known to authorities. The rallying cry for equal rights and just treatment of Black people ignited protests on May 26, 2020, one day after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.

Since his death and at the time of publication of this article those marches — mostly peaceful — have carried on daily for close to three weeks. Black Americans in both rural and urban areas alike have used the past 20 days to raise their voices with a clear vision that the subpar treatment of Black people would no longer be tolerated.

The size of the demonstrations compounded in the early days of the protests and a tipping point was reached in the nation’s capital late last month when demonstrators and law enforcement clashed one night near the White House, where President Donald Trump was holed up inside and watching from a bunker. The turbulent scene prompted him to deploy the D.C. National Guard, a move that would add another wrinkle to the already rocky relationship he has with Washington, D.C.’s Black woman mayor, Muriel Bowser

READ MORE: Trump calls DC mayor ‘incompetent’ in clash over George Floyd protests

Once the National Guard descended on the grounds surrounding The People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on May 30, the cries for better treatment were amplified as protesters aimed their grievances toward the president, who oft-boasts that he has been the best president for African Americans, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.

Demonstrators gather to protest the killing of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

As the crowd chanted “I’m Black and I’m proud,” one guardsman, Khaled Abdelghany, was captured on cellphone video mouthing the words along with the protesters. He was not audible, but what was clear is that he as a Black American stood shoulder to shoulder with the protesters, even as he wore his military uniform. Days later the video was posted to Twitter, where it has since been reshared more than 115,000 times on the platform.

The footage of the D.C. native made tens of thousands more rounds on the internet after Abdelghany retweeted the post saying “I will always say it. I am a black man first before anything!”

After going viral on social media, support for the National Guard specialist started to pour in. Abdelghany said he was caught up in the moment.

“I’m a Black man, first, before I put on this uniform,” Abdelghany, 32, told theGrio in an exclusive interview. “And when I take it off, I’m still a Black man walking around this city.”

“It was hard, it was heavy, it was painful because I felt the same pain as the protesters, my people from my community, and it was very heartfelt,” he said.

What remains abundantly clear is that Abdelghany’s military uniform does not take away from the person he is and what he stands for and believes in.

“I wasn’t worried about choosing a side; that was chosen for me by birth. We, as Black people, we are tired of being shot, killed, choked by police for no reason, and it could be any one of us,” he explained.

READ MORE: An open letter to my white ‘friends’ who remain silent

Abdelghany, who has been in the National Guard since 2015, is proud to serve in the military. The recent protests fueled by the death of Floyd, on top of the unjustified slayings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, awakened emotions in all corners of the country, including Washington, where nearly half of its estimated 706,000 residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Black Lives Matter” is seen painted on 16th Street in Washington D.C. (Credit: @MurielBowser/Twitter)

In cities like Washington, the push for racial equity and equality is even more paramount.

“My mother raised me to be who I am and proud of who I am, and it’s hard for me to think about how all of this is still happening and how we can make a change,” Abdelghany said.

Abdelghany now has a larger platform, one that he pledges to use for good to help enact change.

“I’ve already begun reaching out to my close circle of personal friends to see what more I can do, what more we can do as people in uniform,” he said.

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