Supporters of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department (KCPD) gathered outside the department’s downtown headquarters Tuesday evening. Across the street, a growing number of counter protesters gathered.
Kansas City lawyer and civil rights activist Stacy Shaw engaged a few of the pro-police demonstrators in an effort to hold a productive conversation on their opposing viewpoints.
Protests against police brutality and racism have persisted for weeks in Kansas City and throughout the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a now-fired Minneapolis police officer.
Protesters have called for the termination of KCPD Chief Rick Smith as the first act of change within the department while advocating for local control.
Ashley Bryant of Kansas City came out to support the department and Smith. While she doesn’t know the chief personally, she has family members who are officers.
“I would encourage them to do ride alongs, I would encourage them to go through the Kansas City Police Department’s citizen academy because many people don’t do that,” Bryant said. “We like to complain but not fix, and I think you have to learn in order to fix.”
Waving American and thin blue line flags, colorful posters and donning t-shirts in support of the police, those rallying behind the department chanted their support for Smith, Operation Legend and “all lives matter.”
They stood in front of the memorial to fallen officers that was graffitied during recent protests, but has since been cleaned.
Protest organizer Oluwatoyin Keji Akinmoladun said the time to speak up is now.
“I can’t just be out here for one day, for one protest, saying ‘Black lives matter,’ I have to be at every protest if I really believe it,” Akinmoladun said. “Everybody’s a person – Black, hispanic, white – you’re a person, you have a family, you matter absolutely.”
Akinmoladun said she believes ‘blue lives’ do not exist because being an officer is a job and a choice, and while all lives matter, it is time to focus on Black lives because they are being treated like they don’t matter.
The two groups remained divided by Locust Street, occasionally stepping into the street. No uniformed officers were present.