Hundreds protest Missouri abortion ban at Plaza in Kansas City
Kansas City police said two men briefly detained during Sunday’s abortion ban protest near the Country Club Plaza were not suspected of any crime.
The men were not arrested. They had not planned to attend the demonstration and were visiting the shopping and entertainment district, police said.
In the 24 hours after the protest, a photograph and video that showed police ordering two men to lie face down on the ground of a parking lot has been frequently shared on social media, including Facebook.
The incident unfolded during the demonstration, which began about 1 p.m. at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on West 47th Street.
A woman approached a police officer, who was directing traffic during the demonstration, and said two men inside a nearby parking garage were gathering what she believed to be “pipe bombs,” Sgt. Jake Becchina, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, said Monday.
Officers were immediately dispatched to the parking garage. With their service weapons drawn, the officers approached two men and a vehicle that matched the woman’s description.
Police ordered the men to lay face down on the ground. Officers handcuffed the men and searched their vehicle. No explosive devices were found, but one of the men was armed with a gun, Becchina said.
The man was legally permitted to carry the weapon but volunteered to leave it in the car after it was explained that most of the businesses on the Plaza do not allow weapons. The men were released without further incident, Becchina said.
“I don’t know what the woman saw that led her to believe they had pipe bombs. I don’t know what her motivation was, if she saw something,” Becchina said.
Police estimated the crowd at the protest at 1,500 to 2,000 people. The group protested a measured approved by the Missouri House that would ban abortions after 8 weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape and incest.
The bill would criminalize any abortion beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergencies. Doctors who perform abortions after eight weeks face five to 15 years in prison. There is no punishment for the mother. The legislation in Missouri is similar to restrictive actions approved in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
Gov. Mike Parson has said he plans to soon sign the measure into law.