Daisy Garcia Montoya
Protestors rallied at City Hall on Friday in support of the Black community, following the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after being detained by police.
The Black Lives Matter protest was focused on demanding change within the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD), including equipping officers with body cameras, regaining local control of KCPD, and the implementation of a community review board.
Before guest speakers began 11 a.m., groups of protesters continued to arrive to stand in solidarity with the black community. One of these groups was Voz KC, a newly formed Latinx advocacy group.
In less than 72 hours, Voz KC organized a rally at Jarboe Park and marched to City Hall to participate in the Black Lives Matter protest.
“It’s not about us, today is about black lives matter,” Jessica Alaya, member of Voz KC, said as she took the stage at City Hall.
Demonstrators chanted “no justice, no peace,” and “mi lucha es tu lucha,” as translated from Spanish to “your fight is my fight,” as a way of showing the black community that the Latinx community is fighting for the same cause.
Third District-at-Large Councilman Brandon Ellington spoke about lack of unity between the black and brown community.
“I want to talk about the brown and black coalition, because again, we’ve been faking with each other,” Ellington said. “[We’re] the only people – not only, but we the majority only ones – here who got melanin in our skin. There’s no reason that we’re separated. There’s no reason that collectively we’re the weakest politically, but if we look at our numbers we’re the largest collectively.”
As the official protest began, speakers focused on the need for change, how non-black supporters could be better allies for the black community, and the importance of voting.
Guest speakers included U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas (D-3), Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, Fourth District Councilman Eric Bunch, Missouri State Rep. Greg Razer (D-25) and Missouri State Rep. Barbara Anne Washington (D-23).
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker also took the stage to voice that peaceful protesters should not be charged for stepping off the curb into the street, as many have during the Plaza protests. Baker spoke on the launch of a web page where people can send any evidence of potential police misconduct.
As the conversation on police brutality continued, Narene Stokes, mother of Ryan Stokes, a black individual who was killed by a KCPD officer in 2013, spoke to the crowd about the need for local change.
“Mayor Lucas and the governor and Kansas City, Missouri, we gotta fight,” Stokes said. “We got to stand up. They’re killing our kids right here in Kansas City. Not in Minneapolis, not in Chicago, it’s right here. We got to fight.”
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas reviewed the new measures announced on June 4 after an emergency meeting with the Board of Police Commissioners. These measures include having all officer-involved shootings reviewed by an outside agency and protections for whistleblowers within KCPD.
“The problem isn’t just one officer,” Lucas said. “This isn’t about one officer or four officers in Minneapolis. This ain’t about one officer in Chicago, this ain’t about one officer in Kansas City. What it is about is the foundation is rotten with what we’re dealing with. And we need to shake it up. We need to change it, we need to know that we’re not going to stand for it anymore.”
As he finished addressing the crowd, Lucas signed a list of demands made by the organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest, added that “this is just the first step y’all. We have more change to come.”
Justice Horn, organizer of Black Lives Matter, read the list of demands which included de-militarization of KCPD, local control of KCPD, the proposed funding for body cameras, a restrictive policy governing the use of force including a multi-step de-escalation procedure, and engagement with community representatives.
“But people, we are not done,” Horn said in his final address to the crowd. “We have won the day, but the battle has just begun.”