Friday night’s protests over police brutality and federal interference spilled into Power & Light
Local photographer Jim Nimmo has been attending all the local protests to document them. We feel like his work is especially important in making sure that the community can see where the movement is headed, and to be there in case we need to catch possibly illegal action taking place as events similar to those happening in Portland seem to be spreading across the county.
On Friday, July 17th, Black Rainbow held a protest at the headquarters of the KC police department. Specifically, they were protesting the arrival of over 200 federal officers sent to KC as part of Operation Legend to assist in the investigations of unsolved homicides. With over five months left in the year, our city has seen 102 murders and is well on our way to set a record for annual homicides.
In more normal times, these additional agents would be welcomed without controversy but this is the summer of 2020. Late in the evening on Friday, civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis died of cancer, protests turned destructive, 11 people were arrested.
Earlier that day, news reports told the story of Portland, Oregon protesters who were detained by federal agents. These agents wearing black, paramilitary garb without identifying insignia, name-tags, or carrying badges were pulling up in unmarked black vans to detain citizens of America by throwing them in the back of those vans and taking them to undisclosed locations for questions without attorneys present.
These agents were originally sent to Portland only to guard federal property but had without the consent of local authorities extended their reach beyond federal installations to public streets. The members of Kansas City’s Black Rainbow feared similar actions here in our city as President Trump promised “take back our cities”—whatever that threat means?
One again, property is openly being prioritized over the lives of people.
Black Rainbow is an unapologetically confrontational group dedicated to the liberation of all oppressed people. Mayor Quinton Lucas calls them fake allies and vandals but people on the East side talk of the things they do in the community like trash pickup and help with purchasing groceries.
The protest featured speeches on the steps of KCPD headquarters in the shadow of the Fallen Officers Memorial. Attorney Stacey Shaw who has become a frequent legal advisor for those arrested at this summer’s protests spoke. The crowd of over 200 then marched through the downtown area stopping traffic at two different intersections for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—the same amount of time that officers held George Floyd on the ground until he died.
They marched through and protested inside the downtown Cosentino’s grocery. Outside the grocery, private security blocked a parked car belonging to the group with a golf cart. Protesters picked the cart up bodily and moved it to allow their “follow car” to get out.
They also took over the stage of the Power & Light District as uncomfortable diners sat in the courtyard watching.
As night fell, the protesters returned to police headquarters. Many of the protesters then departed but about a 100 stayed and a decidedly different tone in the protest appeared. Spray cans appeared, rocks were thrown at the station. A group of motorcyclists arrived and began doing wheelies on the south side of the station to the cheers of the remaining protesters.
Seconds before the first firework was thrown I noticed a news alert on my phone that Rep. John Lewis of “get in good trouble” fame had died at the age of 80.
That’s when police lines in riot gear appeared.
Protesters including legal observer, Stacey Shaw were pepper-sprayed, forced off the street by police ironically (or by design) onto federal property where the protesters risked federal charges.
Arrests were made and the night ended.
The next day, local media highlighted the violence and not the message. KCPD kept several protesters on 24 hour holds without allowing them access to an attorney. Allegations of police misconduct were leveled against one specific officer from the night before.
John Lewis died 20,222 days after the March on Selma, 19,098 days after the assassination of Dr. King, 3,065 days after the death of Trayvon Martin, 146 days after the death of Ahmaud Arbery, 127 days after the death of Breonna Taylor and 56 days after the death of George Floyd. Protest leaders will tell you that it took less than 2 weeks after burning a Minneapolis police station for that city to begin reform efforts.
All photos by Jim Nimmo: