Citizens gathered at J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on Thursday, Aug. 14 to stage a peaceful protest in memory of Michael Brown, a young African-American male shot by Ferguson police in St. Louis, Mo.
More than 300 protestors held signs and stood near the streets, chanting “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” to passing traffic.
Shortly after 7 p.m. the crowd gathered for a scheduled moment of silence in memory of Brown, as well as other victims of police brutality. Amber Stewart and Sarah Cole, rally organizers, addressed the crowd afterward.
“It’s thanks to you all that we’re here today.” Stewart said. “Tonight we gather together to mourn, because without a chance to grieve, we lose the ability to heal, the ability to see past anger and gather together to focus on what it take to make meaningful change.”
Cole called for citizens to “confront the structural issues that led to Michael Brown’s fateful last moments.” Cole said “the militarization of the police has led to numerous deaths and injuries,” and has advanced since Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs allowed police departments to compete for federal funds.
Cole quoted New York Times journalist Matt Apuzzo, saying that within the last 6 years police departments have acquired “thousands of machine guns, nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines, thousands of pieces of camouflage and night vision equipment, and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”
Members of the crowd later approached the microphone to share testimonials from victims of police brutality. Stories were told from the perspective of brides whose wedding days were destroyed by police bullets, infants affected by tear gas grenades and innocent citizens shot in the back despite compliance.
Stewart then delivered 5 policies to prevent police brutality, identified by Los Angeles citizen Shaun King whose petition to enact these policies has garnered over 200,000 signatures. The policies appearing in the petition are as follows:
1. The shooting and killing of an unarmed citizen who does not have an outstanding warrant for a violent crime should be a federal offense.
2. Choke holds and chest compressions by police (what the coroner lists as the official cause of death for Eric Garner) should be federally banned.
3. All police officers must wear forward facing body cameras while on duty.
4. Suspensions for violations of any of the above offenses should be unpaid.
5. Convictions for the above offenses should have their own set of mandatory minimum penalties.
Members of the crowd were offered an opportunity to sign the petition electronically by texting “change” to 816-249-1766.
Poets also presented works at the rally. Rod Love recited his poem “Beginnings,”
“A horrible state of things is always part oppression, part complacency,” Love said. “And right now we stand facing a nation’s uncovered sins, bare naked, no apologies in sight to those who can stand to keep their eyes open.”
Kansas City Mayor Sly James aired a video message to the city earlier on the 14th,with hope that “people make their opinions heard, but they do so in a way that allows people to actually listen as opposed to being distracted by the violence that may erupt on the edges.”
In short, James said, keep it cool. The protest remained peaceful.