Using several chants, including “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace” and “Hands up; don’t shoot,” about three dozen people rallied in the cold Monday afternoon to protest fatal shootings by Kansas City police over the last decade.
One Struggle KC and the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, which goes by the name MORE2, gathered at the Leon M. Jordan Campus, which houses the Kansas City Police Department’s East Patrol Division and Crime Lab, at 27th Street and Prospect Avenue.
The two groups held the rally in response to an article Sunday in The Kansas City Star that said officers have killed 47 people since 2005. Although police were cleared in each incident, some critics are calling for an independent monitor.
“I along with the others gathered here felt great pain when we read the article in The Kansas City Star about police involved shootings in Kansas City,” said Rabbi Douglas Alpert, who leads the Congregation Kol Ami and is chairman of the criminal justice task force with MORE2.
“While we on some level knew the problem existed, what we didn’t know is that out of other cities of similar size, we were the third-worst in the country for police-involved shootings. For me as a lifelong Kansas City resident, it was a sad exclamation point on what I had witnessed throughout my lifetime, which is the racial injustice that has plagued our city for oh these many years.”
The Star analyzed officer-involved fatal shootings since 2005 and found that Kansas City police have a high number of fatal shootings compared with peer cities.
When compared with data from 11 other cities, Kansas City ranked third per capita behind St. Louis and Cleveland in fatal police shootings, The Star found. Nearly 60 percent of those killed were black.
“We need to find ways towards a nonviolent resolution of encounters between police and citizens whenever it is possible, and to foster meaningful and positive relationships with the communities that they serve and in particularly the black community — because black lives really do matter,” Alpert said. “Ryan Stokes’ life mattered and matters.”
Police shot and killed Stokes, 24, in July 2013. The shooting had been ruled justified and a grand jury declined to indict. Some people want the case reopened.
“We know that racial profiling and excessive policing happens in Kansas City, just as it does in Ferguson (Mo.), in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Minneapolis and in every other community where there are police in the United States,” said Ashley Peaches of One Struggle KC. “… We’re here to remind KCPD that their behavior is unacceptable.”
Saying the officers involved in the fatal shootings have faced no consequences nor accountability, Peaches said that the Kansas City department cannot police itself and the grand jury process is corrupt and unjust.
“Grand juries do not promote transparency and are an unfair representation of an already misaligned justice system,” she said. “That’s why we are here today.”