Hundreds of protesters gathered at Kansas City, Missouri police headquarters and marched through the Power and Light district on Friday evening to demand police budget cuts and an end to Operation Legend, a federal initiative that will send 225 federal enforcement agents into the city. Later in the night, a Facebook live video from one organizer showed police in riot gear teargassing protesters and threatening to arrest them if they didn’t disperse.
The Department of Justice, which announced the operation, said it is meant to curb a spike in violent crime in Kansas City, but protesters said a larger law enforcement presence will endanger Black people in the city. Instead, the protesters demanded a 50% cut to the KCPD budget and for that money to be redirected to education, healthcare and other services to help community members.
“More police does not equal less crime,” said an organizer with Black Rainbow who identified himself as X.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and other officials have said officers brought in through Operation Legend would be working to solve murders and shootings in the area rather than patrolling streets, but protesters like X said they’re worried the stronger law enforcement presence could cause a “modern-day televised lynching in KC.”
As the crowd marched from KCPD headquarters through the Power and Light district and into various stores and restaurants, including Cosentino’s Market and Kansas City Live, they chanted “Mayor Lucas is not the people,” “feds go home” and “not in our city.” Protest organizers said Lucas should be doing more to keep federal agents out of the city and threatened to vote him and all other leaders who supported the initiative out in the next elections.
Lawyer and protest leader Stacy Shaw read the names of victims of systemic racism and police killings in Kansas City.
Shaw said people in the United States should mourn those names as they do victims of 9/11. She almost cried reading the names on the list — some of them were clients, family members of friends or connected to her in some other way, Shaw said.
In Kansas City Live and Cosentino’s, protesters tried to convince customers and onlookers to march with them. They said at least five joined the protest from the grocery store, but at Kansas City Live, where protesters stood onstage in front of a large television, many continued eating at their tables, and one family argued with protesters and left.
Shaw live-streamed the protest on Facebook, and at one point stayed in Cosentino’s as other protesters left to show viewers that no produce or other merchandise had been harmed from the protesters’ “occupying space” for victims of violence and racism in the city.
Protesters also said it was wrong for the government to name an operation after LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old who was fatally shot in Kansas City in June.
“He’s a young Black man,” X said. “He does not deserve to be the poster child for martial law.”
They later stopped at Walnut and 13th streets and laid in the intersection with their hands behind their backs for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd, who a police officer killed in Minneapolis when he kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Protesters yelled “I can’t breathe,” the same phrase Floyd said multiple times before his death, which set off nationwide protests that have continued since May against police violence and racism.
About 10 minutes before the protest was scheduled to end, several police officers wearing face shields and other riot gear came out of KCPD headquarters and onto the street. Protesters approached and the officers backed away and reentered the KCPD building.
Protesters shined flashlights into upper windows of the building, where onlookers stared down at the crowds. Some also called KCMO police chief Rick Smith a coward and yelled “We know who killed Donnie Sanders,” an unarmed man who an unnamed Kansas City police officer fatally shot during a traffic stop in March. Protesters also set off several fireworks at the building.
In a separate Facebook livestream, Shaw showed protesters gather again on the steps of KCPD headquarters, where at some point protesters spray-painted “Abolish the police” among other phrases on the Police Monument outside the building.
Shaw’s video later shows crowds of police in riot gear and holding rubber bullet guns clash with protesters. One officer is seen pushing a protester before Shaw drops her phone. Then clouds of teargas are visible. Shaw can be heard coughing off camera.
“We are being maced and teargassed for protesting peacefully,” she said. “My name is Attorney Stacy Shaw. I was just maced. … I can’t see.”
Police then can be seen forming a line so that protesters cannot reenter the street. Shaw told protesters that officers said they would have time to disperse before they would deploy tear gas again and arrest anyone who remained. Off-camera, someone who is presumably an officer told Shaw that the protests were out of hand, even though demonstrations had remained peaceful.
“Listen to me, it doesn’t have to be this way,” the man said. “We’ve got our stuff spray painted. It’s getting to the point where we’ve tried to stay out of the way all night long. We’ve let you guys protest, OK? We don’t want it to be this way.”
Shaw can be heard asking the man what will be done to meet protesters’ demands, and soon after, the livestream ends.
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