Two hearses gave an air of solemnity to a motorcade Sunday from Zion Grove Baptist Church to Swope Park to mark the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
The event, organized by the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (More2), was also a call for action against institutional racism and injustices committed by law enforcement.
“People of faith, what’s our response?” asked Michael Brooks, pastor at Zion Grove. “It’s always to be prayerful. But I think when we get through praying it’s also time for action, and that’s what this is about.”
About 100 people gathered near the pavilion in Swope Park from a motorcade that included several dozen vehicles. The Rev. Tamara Miller of Linwood United Church gave the opening prayer for the 699 people who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States in 2015 as of Aug. 5, according to killedbypolice.net. The group sang “We Shall Overcome” and “Amazing Grace” during the brief ceremony.
Meanwhile, early Sunday evening several dozen people gathered near the Ward Parkway Shopping Center for a protest held by One Struggle KC.
Police arrested four protesters, three in Kansas City and one in Leawood, after they put tape across State Line Road and lay in the street.
Police cited them for blocking or obstructing the street. Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté said on Twitter that police would not allow dangerous behavior and that obstructing the street would not be tolerated.
“Majority of (the) protesters have been law-abiding,” he tweeted. Police officers “didn’t interact w/ protesters until street was blocked.”
At Swope Park, Rodney Williams, pastor of Swope Parkway United Christian Church, recalled when Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb, where there was a stone blocking the entrance. Williams said the stone can be seen as a symbol of separation, alienation and isolation.
“I believe this is a call for action for us to mobilize and to organize so we can remove the stone of racism, the stone of illiteracy, the stone of the digital divide, the stone of low economics,” he said.
Brooks said the Kansas City gathering was not solely about Michael Brown but also to remember Ryan Stokes, a 24-year-old black man killed by a Kansas City police officer on July 28, 2013, near the Power & Light District. Police said Stokes had a gun and did not obey commands to show his hands. Stokes’ family disputes that he had a gun and said he might not have heard the commands.
Joan McIntosh, Stokes’ aunt, attended Sunday’s prayer rally and said her nephew had the potential to go far in life.
“We still miss him and I guess we’ll forever miss him,” she said. “We ask your prayer that the family will carry on.”
The Star’s Robert A. Cronkleton contributed to this report.