A Sunday afternoon anti-hate rally sparked by a teenager’s Facebook page drew about 500 people to the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City for what became a wide-ranging protest amid local and national racial tensions.
The demonstrators protested against the famous Kansas City real estate developer J.C. Nichols, petitioning to have his name removed from a prominent fountain because of his history of racial exclusion in neighborhood developments.
They were prepared to march from the Plaza to the confederate monument honoring “the Loyal Women of the Old South,” at 55th Street and Ward Parkway, but changed that plan when the city covered up the controversial memorial with plywood after it was vandalized Friday. The monument is to be removed, city officials said.
Speakers and signs invoked the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and decried President Donald Trump.
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“No Nazis! No KKK! No fascists USA!” the anti-hate demonstrators chanted as they marched in a loop through the Plaza.
“I can’t believe we still have to protest this s---,” read a sign held by 18-year-old Alix Smith of Independence, who came to the rally with Desi Taylor, 17, and Abby Taylor, 14 of Independence.
The teenagers came in support of “equality for all and justice for all,” Smith said.
Some tensions arose because of the silent scrutiny of the gathering by onlookers carrying guns, many of them members of the Three Percent United Patriots — a self-described American patriots movement. Many of those onlookers were capturing video of the crowd.
But the afternoon remained peaceful under the eye of multiple police officers, many on horseback. Police reported no incidents from the rally.
The original organizer, who, because she was a minor, said she wanted to publicize only her first name, was Andi of Shawnee. She started the Facebook page No Place for Hate last weekend after the Charlottesville violence. Her call for a rally Sunday at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain was joined by many others.
“People want to discount white supremacy as just being about history,” Andi said as the rally was preparing to begin. “But this (she said of the J.C. Nichols fountain Sunday) is about white supremacy.
“People want to cling to statues,” she said, “but it justifies bigotry.”
Many organizations joined in the rally. Charles Greene of Kansas City, wearing a reflective vest, sunglasses and a bandana over his face, said he was aiding in security for the crowd as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, an international labor union, which was one of the rally backers.
Greene was dressed similarly to many of the onlookers with the Three Percent organization, which was not entirely coincidental. He said he did not want the anti-hate demonstrators to feel intimidated.
“The best thing we can do is show them we’re not afraid,” Greene said.
Some of the Three Percent members said they were there to help make sure everyone was protected.
Laura Hassell of Tulsa, Okla., who joined in the demonstration, asked a group of the Three Percent members why they were there with guns.
“It’s our Second Amendment right,” a man answered her. They argued over who was most at fault for the outbreak of violence in Charlottesville and other demonstrations around the country. The Three Percent group members at the rally stressed that they do not support the KKK.
The rally mostly dispersed about 2 p.m.
Megan Birnstein of Kansas City, who helped coordinate the rally that Andi started, said the groups that came together “wanted to lift up the voices of the people.”
Moses Brings Plenty, a native Lakota American Indian, was one of many speakers during the afternoon and praised the gathered people for their “stance against hate.”
“Look around,” he said. “See what love is.”