On one side of 12th Street — in front of the Richard Bolling Federal Building — about 20 protesters stood in a line and insisted that the government is taking away everyone’s freedoms.
They held American flags and yellow ones saying “Don’t Tread on Me.” They said the government owned most of the land in western states. And they wanted the community to know they stand up for Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who was killed by authorities during the Oregon standoff in late January.
“We’re trying to bring awareness to what’s happened,” said organizer Tere Lee, of Overpasses for America groups in Missouri and Kansas. “The government is too involved. Do you want to be a slave or live as a free person?”
Saturday’s “patriot rally” in downtown Kansas City was one of many held across the country as anti-government groups continue to protest what happened to Finicum. A rancher from Arizona, Finicum was a spokesman of the armed group that took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early January to protest federal land restrictions and the prison sentences two local ranchers received for setting fires.
Across the street from protesters on Saturday was a smaller group of counterprotesters. First just two people and then a few more joined in. Most had part of their faces masked with black fabric and just one sign among them, a pink neon poster board with an obscenity followed by “Leave KC.”
The counterprotesters yelled obscenities and told the protesters they weren’t welcome. “There are domestic terrorists in front of the federal building,” yelled one.
Not long after the exchange began, a police sergeant arrived and reminded both groups about the rules.
“Everybody is here to exercise their rights,” Sgt. Eben Hall told the group of protesters who call themselves patriots, after he had spoken to the counterprotesters. “As long as we follow the law, we can go about our business.”
The counterprotesters said they weren’t with a specific group. No one wanted to give their name. One woman stated their purpose for showing up Saturday.
“Part of us being here is so they don’t go unconfronted,” she said. “So that their message doesn’t go unconfronted.”
As she spoke, two more protesters joined the line along 12th Street. The two groups faced off for about 1 1/2 hours until the counterprotesters left. The protesters stayed another 30 minutes.
“At least we have a free country,” said protester Richard McKie, 65, of Independence. “A country where people can talk to each other.”