City Hall Protest Demands Abortion Rights
6/26/2022 - Kansas City, Missouri
Protesters show support for abortion rights and opposition to the overturning of Roe v. Wade in front of KCMO city hall.
Photo by: Meriah Bradley
On Sunday, June 26 at 10 a.m. protesters gathered in front of the Kansas City city hall building in the wake of the Roe v. Wade ruling which overturned a 50-year Constitutional right to abortion. The protest started small and gained participants as the morning continued. By around noon, the protest had enough members to walk the city block in a march, continuing to hold signs and chant slogans such as "My body, my choice" and "Not the church, not the state, people must decide their fate."
Missouri’s “trigger ban” went into effect following the overturn decision on June 24. Kansas, however, will vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion on August 2.
Mackenzie Williams, one of the organizers of the event, spoke about about why she feels strongly about the ruling. "I personally have had an abortion because I was in an abusive relationship,” she said. “So for me, it hits home. I just want everyone to have the same right that I did at the time because it was difficult for me to find a Planned Parenthood and even be able to afford to get an abortion. So for people to now have all these other obstacles [as well], that's not okay."
This protest included a large number of LGBTQIA+ community members as well. A trans woman, who asked to remain anonymous, explained: "I'm down here because I'm trans, and beyond that, just being in solidarity with other women because obviously, that's important. I am a woman, I want to support other women, and if somebody comes after bodily autonomy that's kind of central to my existence.”
She also spoke to broader issues around bodily autonomy faced by the trans community. “If I do not have bodily autonomy at this point, I can't even live. I mean, like, I've had my surgery and everything. I do not produce any hormones naturally. If my hormones are taken away, the natural reaction my body will go through is osteoporosis, causing my bones to basically dissolve. Meaning it could kill me."
Given the framing of the SCOTUS decision, left-wing justices have warned that other decisions, including related to same-sex marriage, contraception access and other right to privacy concerns, could also be at risk of overturn.
When asked what else she might want the local community to know about she continued, "The 2022 Texas Republican Platform, it's a PDF. You can look it up on Google. It's 40 pages, and even though it's a horrible fascist document that will make you depressed, everybody needs to read it. Everybody needs to know what's in it, because they are threatening to remove voting rights."
The document is a June 16, 2022 Report of the Permanent Platform & Resolutions Committee from the Republican Party of Texas. Pages 34-35 describe a number of proposed changes to voting, including requiring re-registration, tightening voter ID requirements, fewer allowances for mail-in voting and closed primaries. Point 244 also reads, “We support equal suffrage for all United States citizens of voting age. We oppose any identification of citizens by race, origin, creed, sexuality, or lifestyle choices, and oppose use of any such identification for purposes of creating voting districts. We urge that the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.”
Tasha McBride, another attendee, stated, "I'm here to represent women, young women. Just the community that doesn't deserve to be moved backward, to [have] our rights taken away, to try to make us bow down to their beliefs and [I'm here] to stand up for the rights of everybody."
Williams, the organizer, recommended their Facebook page, Equality for ALL Women, and Twitter, @Equality4allwom, for anyone looking to get involved.
Published on: 7/9/2022
PRESS RELEASE: Starbucks Workers Seal Victory in Independence MO Union Election
5/24/2022 - Independence, Missouri
(Left) Starbucks Workers United logo; (Right) Workers United Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board logo
Workers at 18710 E. 39th St. Starbucks won their union election today by a tally of 17-3. This store becomes the first unionized Starbucks in MO and the second KC Metro area Starbucks store to have a union election. The first Starbucks store at 75th & i-35 in Overland Park, KS initially won their election 6-1 on April 8, but the results were objected to by Starbucks attorneys. Workers at 75th & i-35 still await a resolution to their election results. 39th & Arrowhead's victory is the third Midwest Starbucks store to win their union election today, following two other victories that occurred earlier in the day in Columbus and Cleveland, OH.
Workers from E. 39th expressed:
“We are thrilled with the results of today’s vote count. Today our voices have been heard by the NLRB. Tomorrow our voices will be heard by Starbucks in collective bargaining. We hope this win sparks a union rally across KC and Missouri and continues the push across the nation. Today we’ve made it clear that our store manager, district manager, regional manager, and Howard Schultz himself have to listen to us and finally respect us as workers. We encourage not just every Starbucks store but every service industry store, auto shop, law firm and all jobs in between to join the labor fight. It’s time for all baristas, mechanics, lawyers, and even strippers to stand up to not only their bosses but also Washington to say the working class runs this country and we mean business.”
Workers United International Vice President Kathy Hanshew shared:
“We are extremely proud to welcome the workers of Starbucks in Independence into our union. By winning today, they overcame months of anti-union attacks that we believe will be ruled illegal by the NLRB. As Starbucks continues to lose their senseless war against their own workers, they will become more and more desperate, and will continue to employ such despicable tactics. However, the Starbucks bosses are no match for this new generation of union activists, and no match for a united labor movement that is steadfast in its commitment to stand with them. All power to the Starbucks workers! This is a huge step forward for their movement and for all workers in Missouri and the Midwest.”
Published on: 5/25/2022
Carter, Kendrick, Wattree respond to Hickman Mills School Board investigation
2/25/2022 - Kansas City, Missouri
Hickman Mills School Board logo
Three members of the Hickman Mills School District Board have released a statement following an editorial from the Kansas City Star on February 20, 2022. The editorial discussed the details of the Missouri Attorney General investigation into "spending irregularities by members of the Hickman Mills school board," particularly President Byron Townsend and Vice President DaRon McGee.
Tramise Carter, Irene Kendrick, and Cecil Wattree issued the statement below, speaking in their capacity not as board members, but as "individual stakeholders."
Statement from Carter, Kendrick, Wattree Released
The joint statement, released February 22, 2022, is as follows:
"In light of the issues raised in the Kansas City Star opinion article, we would like to make the following statement.
We come to you not as representatives of the Hickman Mills C-1 School board, but as Individual stakeholders, emboldened by our community to provide public service. In this statement we speak in solidarity.
As board directors, we strive to ensure that our number one priority will remain our students and their families. We will continue to stay student-centered and solution focused while ensuring a quality education that deserves more of your attention.
We welcome any opportunity of transparency, and weight of accountability that may come from any investigation. Regrettably, we understand that this is what being held accountable looks like. We three stand ready to do what’s best for our community and keep our eyes on the prize towards accreditation. We took an oath that we will continue to honor in service to our community. Please stay involved and committed to Hickman Mills School District. We cannot do anything without your input and your involvement.
School Board Elections Upcoming
Carter's and Wattree's seats on the board are currently open and will be decided during the April 5, 2022 election. There are four candidates, including Wattree, running for the two open spots.
Published on: 2/25/2022
BOPC Discusses Proposal for 2022-2023 Requested Police Budget
11/2/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
File photo of the Kansas City Missouri Board of Police Commissioners.
Photo by: Andrei Stoica
Board will meet Thursday to discuss $272 million requested budget
The Kansas City Missouri Police Department Board of Police Commissioners will meet Thursday, November 4 at 3 p.m. via teleconference to discuss the department’s budget request to the city for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The board began discussing the proposal last week, and held a special meeting on Wednesday, October 27 to discuss the initial budget proposal memo (available here). That memo requested a total of $272,850,697, up from last year’s adopted budget of $256,773,275.
The board also approved a $300,000 transfer from the legal fund for this year’s budget, since the department went over their budget for legal expenses.
Mayor Quinton Lucas, the only board member to vote no on the transfer, said, “I just don’t think it’s a responsible form of expenditure to move something from the salary line item to lawyers and other professionals.”
He said he hopes future budget requests from the department would allocate funding for exclusively salaries, and not appropriate those dollars for anything else. This is especially true given the department’s struggles with staffing over the past year.
“I would prefer us not spending millions of dollars on legal expenses when we need to hire other folks,” Lucas said. “At City Hall, for example, when we were spending budget on (legal expenses), we had to go through a whole new program to make sure we weren’t sued as much.”
Police Chief Rick Smith explained that, especially given city budget cuts, most of the department’s funding goes to salaries. Had cuts not come out of salaries, he said only about $13 million would have been left to run the police department.
“We have to pay the bills, and we have to get that money from someplace, and we take that from salary savings,” he said.
Lucas noted the city owns the police department’s building and pays a portion of the utilities. He suggested it would be possible to approach the city about paying the rest of those expenses, but that he would want to see salaries as the top priority.
Last year’s staffing goal was 1413 officers, with the upcoming budget proposal’s goal at 1412 (although the board discussed 1220-1230 as more realistic).
“Recruiting is not going to be easy when we’re the lowest paid police department,” said Commissioner Cathy Dean.
Numbers presented at the meeting showed beginning salaries for area departments including: Lawrence, Kansas City, Kansas, Riverside, KU Med, Independence, Liberty, Blue Springs, Lees Summit, Overland Park, North Kansas City and Kansas City, Missouri. Lawrence had the highest starting salary ($50,840), and Kansas City, Missouri had the lowest ($43,404). In the past year, the department has lost approximately one member per week, although some of these losses are due to retirements.
View the October 27 budget memo here.
Published on: 11/2/2021
Efforts for Equity in Education Continue Following Teach Truth Rally
10/11/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Cornell Ellis of BLOC KC leads the Teach Truth Rally on August 28, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by: Andrei Stoica
At the beginning of the school year, Cornell Ellis of The BLOC KC led a march, in collaboration with SURJ KC, to “teach truth.” The August 28 march—which went from near Lincoln Prep to the Black Archives of MidAmerica, was part of the Zinn Education Project’s national day of action against recent moves across the country to ban critical race theory and curriculum perceived to be part of it, such as the 1619 Project.
These proposed bans include legislation introduced in Missouri by Rep. Brian Seitz (R-Branson) as well as a request from Sen. Mike Moon for Governor Mike Parsons to use an executive order banning critical race theory.
The petition that circulated alongside the national day of action, however, argues that one cannot teach the history of the United States without talking about slavery and other forms of systemic racism, land being taken from Indigenous peoples and how these histories impact us today.
Ellis argues teaching “truth” requires that education reflects the identities and experiences of all students, which often requires teaching more complicated histories as well as working to contextualize history in light of students’ modern-day lived experience.
Last year, Ellis said BLOC KC worked in collaboration with SURJ KC to develop a list of 12 equity demands for area schools. Ten area school districts took up the demands, and have been working with the two organizations over the last year to evaluate their practices and move toward alignment with the demands.
“Over the course of last year, we tracked their progress…and was able to kind of hold side by side what schools were doing with the rubric and the metrics and the quantitative measures that we were that we were pushing for,” Ellis explained. The demands include issues related to hiring practices, communication with students and parents, transparency and data-sharing, board members’ ties to community, access and curriculum.
The full text of these demands is available at the end of this article.
Culturally Relevant Teaching
Ellis said equity in education, however, comes back to people seeing their identities and experiences represented in education—from curriculum to school administration to who is standing at the front of the room.
“I think the whole human experience is becoming more identity based…people matter. People's experiences matter,” Ellis said. “And that isn't true anywhere else more than in education…kids need those spaces, teachers need those spaces, more than any other industry to be able to affirm their identities, and to live up to their full potential, and to truly be able to empower themselves.”
However, Ellis said Black students often do not see themselves represented in curriculum, textbooks or in schools’ faculty and staff. While research has shown that having Black teachers leads to better educational outcomes for Black students, racial demographics in the education system are overwhelmingly and increasingly white.
“As a smart, Black underserved student, you often become disinterested in curriculum because you don't see yourself in it. It's very easy, it's not rigorous, and it's actually not interesting,” Ellis explained about his own experience in school. “Finally, when I got to college, I…was first exposed to, like, experienced culturally relevant pedagogy, and that's really what changed my educational experience. Like I read books by people of color. I learned about history, from people that look like me.”
“Culturally relevant pedagogy,” a term developed by Gloria Ladson-Billings, pushes for an educational approach that understands and affirms students’ culture of origin while also emphasizing problem-solving, critical consciousness and understanding of other cultures. Ellis also highlighted that the approach breaks down the perceived differences between students’ “cultural selves” and their “academic selves.”
“(Culturally relevant pedagogy is) using pedagogical skills that are inclusive and showing kids that their culture matters and that their culture is not separate from their academic selves,” he said. These connections not only help students better connect to course material, but it also keeps students engaged with education long-term, including propelling them into being educators themselves.
“My organization’s goal was to encourage young men, especially Black boys, to get back into education and to become teachers themselves,” Ellis said of his work with BLOC KC.
The BLOC (Brothers Liberating Our Communities) KC works to support Black male educators in Kansas City. Ellis said he hopes the organization will be able to increase the number of Black male educators by 100 in the next decade.
“We were founded in 2016. I was inspired by some work with guys in Philadelphia that were doing Black male educator work, and I came back to Kansas City, I had already founded a conference here called Amplify: Students of Color Conference, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation,” Ellis explained. “We really started off doing going to happy hours, so I’d get every Black male educator I knew and we go have a few drinks…(and) after two or three drinks you start hearing what's really wrong in schools, and now we're able to say, ‘You know what, that's a really great topic, here's what I'm hearing; let's create some really specific opinion based development around that.”
He said topics have ranged from communication strategies to addressing conflict with white school administrators to confronting colleagues on problematic behavior. Presentations and discussions are kept short, Ellis explained, so that attendees also have time to socialize and enjoy dinner.
Ellis said that while he welcomes support and donations from anyone, it’s been important to keep the BLOC KC events a space that is exclusively for Black male educators to gather and have their needs and experiences centered.
“I want all Black male educators to be alive,” Ellis said. “And all students and all teachers to feel like they have a space that’s safe for them to create transformation.”
SURJ KC (in collaboration with BLOC KC) Equity Demands
Published with permission.
Anti-racist, anti-bias professional development.
Strategically ask staff, who are over 80% white, to start by examining their own racial identity development.
Integrate culturally responsive and culturally congruent teaching in teacher training and evaluation processes.
Implement restorative practices that replace traditional exclusionary discipline.
Remove police presence and metal detectors from schools (see Denver, Minneapolis, Portland, Madison). Audit frequency of referrals to law enforcement from SROs (School Resource Officers), budget commitments, and arrest and search frequency by race.
Transform curriculum, school libraries, and classroom libraries to include diverse, representative, and inclusive texts.
Modify recruitment, hiring, and retention practices for staff of color, and set goals for 30% BIPOC representation at all levels.
Ensure equitable representation in honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and gifted, as well as special education.
Begin offering high school courses in ethnic studies and history, such as Latinx history, Mexican-American history, African-American history, and Asian/Pacific Islander history.
Encourage and amplify leadership of students and parents of color.
Create leadership positions and revise budgets to make these action steps achievable.
Annually share data, disaggregated by race, related to each of these action steps.
Published on: 10/11/2021
“I Don’t Want People in the Future to Hurt”: Kiyonnah Bell Speaks on Community, School Activism
9/15/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
An Unfiltered Reality of Black America through the Eyes of Us
by the Van Horn High School Black Student Union
More than six months after school administration refused to show their Black History Month video, Kiyonnah Bell, one of the founding members of the Black Student Union at Van Horn High School in Independence, Missouri said her school hasn’t given up—and she hopes students at other schools will hear their story and feel inspired to form similar unions and push for change.
“I have a passion for my people. I love my people, and I remember what it felt like to be silenced, and it hurt me, and I’m still hurting today,” she said, when asked what connects the various facets of her work. “And I know my ancestors hurt, and I know I don’t want people in the future to hurt,” she said.
Bell, who now works with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) KC, recently spoke at the Teach Truth Rally and March in Kansas City, Missouri on August 28, 2021, which centered on teaching truth in schools and pushing back against proposed legislation banning critical race theory, the 1619 Project and other curricula that seeks to undo the whitewashing of history in K-12 schools.
Independence School District Refuses to Show Video
In February 2021, students from the Black Student Union at Van Horn High School in Independence School District put out a video in honor of Black History Month. The video, created at the request of school administration, was meant to be shown during school assembly. The final video, available on YouTube, was about 15 minutes long and entitled “An Unfiltered Reality of Black America through the Eyes of Us.”
“We were denied to show the video to the school by our principal and our superintendent, stating that the video was basically too progressive and it’ll make the students and the parents and some of the teachers uncomfortable,” Bell explained.
Administrators refused to show the video, claiming it was too long for assembly. Students pushed back, saying the interviews they had to include required more time. Ultimately, a TEDX Talk was shown in place of their video.
Members of the Black Student Union said the decision was an act of censorship and began a petition calling for justice. Members also participated in a panel discussion on the topic, hosted by SURJ.
Black Student Union: Future Directions and Advice
Bell said conversations between the still active Black Student Union and Van Horn High School administration are ongoing. She said that before graduating last spring, she worked to tie Black student groups at all three Independence School District schools and improve relationships and dialogue between those groups and the school administration.
“(The goal was) that the decisions that were being made about the students could then be run by other students, instead of just being made by the teachers…(when) this affects students and how we learn and how we thrive in school,” she said. “We are doing our best to become a part of the decision making processes.”
Although she herself has graduated, she is also continuing her own activism through work with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) KC. She recently spoke at the Teach Truth Rally and March, speaking on the importance of racial justice in education.
She said she hopes to see not only Black students continue to come together not only at Van Horn High School but in other local schools. While she said theirs was the first Black Student Union in the area, she said she hopes others are inspired to take similar action.
She said one of the most important parts of starting a Black Student Union like the one she co-founded with her sister was a strong support system. She said her sister initially came to her about the idea of the union, and that her support has been what helped her through the process of figuring out what worked for the group.
“Have somebody behind you that’s so strong-willed, strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-gutted, somebody that will not take no for an answer—period,” she said. “Have that community…keep them as close as possible.”
She also said the trial and error process of starting the Black Student Union and finding ways of bringing people together was often difficult. But she encouraged students working to form similar groups not to give up.
“We did not give up,” she said. “It is hard. You will get retaliation…and that’s okay. As long as your message is right and you believe in it, you’ll work hard forever. So just keep doing it.”
Published on: 9/15/2021
Why the Activist Community of Kansas City Must Be Dismantled...and Replaced with Radical Democracy, Part 3
Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW - Guest Columnist
File photo of 2021 protests in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Brynn Fitzsimmons
Transference, Countertransference, and the Agentic State
9/14/2021 - Kansas City, Missouri
Editorial by Guest Columnist Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW
Note: This post is part of a series reflecting on the current activist and organizing work happening in Kansas City. The goal of these posts is to provide constructive feedback and frameworks for more effective organizing and activist work. You can read part one here and part two here.
In this post, I want to address how transference and countertransference between the advocate and the oppressed can happen without the advocate (activist, or organizer) being aware, and how not noticing or addressing these issues can ultimately cause damage to movement work and to those it claims to help.
Transference refers to redirection of the person's feelings for a significant person to the advocate ... Countertransference is defined as redirection of an advocate's feelings toward a person, or more generally, as an advocate's emotional entanglement with a person.
Those in the helping profession constantly are reminded to check themselves to ensure that this is not occurring. This affects their ability to advocate or support others as they compromise their action by enabling or pushing their own personal unresolved experiences on those who are supposed to be receiving help from.
The Agentic State of Allies and the Co-Conspirators.
What is the Agentic State?
An agentic state is a state of mind in which a person will allow other people to direct their behaviors and pass responsibility for the consequences of the behaviors to the person telling them what to do.
This might look like:
Nazis who say, " I was just following orders"
Systemic Operators/ oppressors who say, "I was just doing my job" or "Just following protocol".
When advocates follow blindly and accept no responsibility for their actions, they are actively perpetuating the system you wish to address.
This appears to be worse with allies with lack of insight as their privilege should be used to assist with advocacy, when it actually prevents it. Rather, they operate with the same lack of autonomy and inability to hold other advocates accountable for the harm they caused. This also refers to those who confront others in their inability to change or repair harm, when they are unwilling to face the harm which they have caused as well.
“The essence in obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as an instrument for carrying out another person's wishes and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions.”
― Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority
This is the Agentic State.
Why the Activist Community of Kansas City Must Be Dismantled...and Replaced with Radical Democracy, Part 2
Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW - Guest Columnist
File photo of 2021 protests in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Brynn Fitzsimmons
Confusion Regarding Types of Advocacy
9/1/2021 - Kansas City, Missouri
Editorial by Guest Columnist Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW
Note: This post is part of a series reflecting on the current activist and organizing work happening in Kansas City. The goal of these posts is to provide constructive feedback and frameworks for more effective organizing and activist work. You can read part one here.
Activists tend to confuse or create confusion for others regarding advocacy. There are three types of advocacy: self advocacy (micro-level advocacy), individual advocacy (mezzo-level advocacy) and systems advocacy (macro-level advocacy).
Van Reusen states that self-advocacy refers to an individual's ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his or her own interests, desires, needs, and rights (1994). In individual advocacy a person or group of people concentrate their efforts on just one or two individuals. According to the group Advocacy for Inclusion, "Advocacy is having someone to stand beside you if you think something is unfair or that someone is treating you badly and you would like to do something to change it."
There are two common forms of individual advocacy: informal and formal advocacy. When people like parents, friends, family members or agencies speak out and advocate for vulnerable people this is termed informal advocacy. Formal advocacy more frequently involves organizations that pay their staff to advocate for someone or for a group of individuals. Systems advocacy is about changing policies, laws or rules that impact how someone lives their life. These efforts can be targeted at a local, state, or national agency. The focus can be changing laws, or simply written or unwritten policy. What is targeted depends on the type of problem and who has authority over the problem (Brain Injury Resource Center, 1998).
These types of advocacy separates the defining terms of the activist and the organizer. Activists only work in self advocacy and individual advocacy. An organizer however, works in systemic advocacy, they must plan and organize the change or dismantlement of systemic oppression.
Without insight to history, or the practice of systemic oppression or simply not “playing the tape through” regarding calls to action, the local activists have proven themselves to promote triangulation between themselves, the oppressor and the oppressed. The oppressed do have power and a voice but struggle to use them. The oppressor is the one who oppresses the oppressed. It could include allowing the oppressed to experience the natural consequences of the oppressor's choices or behaviors.
Within triangulation, the activists swoop in and take care of the problem of the oppressed – but at the same time ensures the oppressed never finds their own voice or personal power as they become more concerned about their own comfortability with action rather than that of the oppressed or the problem of the oppressed.
An example of this would be planning an action without adhering or establishing boundaries around the action with those you are in solidarity with, and ending up advocating for understanding regarding the behaviors of others as well as yourself rather than the families and the community that you are supposed to be advocating for.
In short, the activist acts. The activist is in movement space but often gives or follows directions of a collective often not understanding the ramifications and strategy of their actions related to having a politic (ideology or their ‘why’ regarding advocacy).They struggle to operate from a scientific mindset, settling with attempting to convince others that they are justified in their actions and are willing to sacrifice transparency and accountability for their own comfort.
On the other hand, the organizer has a scientific mindset. The organizer understands that no innovative act ever happens without failure, and they acknowledge failure to ensure effective action. That the debriefing and acknowledgement of relapse in the stages of change trying to be addressed cannot be addressed with ego but centering direction on changing policies, laws or rules that impact the oppressed as the overall goal with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time specific) objectives.
The more definite difference is that the organizer analyses actions, both positive and negative, to move more efficiently.
The activist currently operates from zero sum, with a preacher, politician, and/or prosecutor mindset: trying to simply tell others they are right or convince others what is right.
It's not about being right, but getting it right.
That is the difference. The individual who is both activist and organizer is the true revolutionary regardless of role or position. Most of all, they understand the why, the how, and the what, in that order.
In order for the activists to transition to organizer, they must first be self aware. In the next part of this series, I will discuss how the inability to be self aware causes transference and countertransference with the advocate and the oppressed.
This is part one of a five-part guest series from Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW.
Heart Village Tenants Disrupt County Meeting, Demand Public Hearing
8/23/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Heart Village resident speaks at the Jackson County Land Use legislative meeting on August 23.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
Tenants of the Heart Village Mobile Home Park, which was recently acquired by Jackson County, Missouri for the purposes of building a new detention center on the property, appeared at a Jackson County Legislative Meeting on Monday, August 23, demanding a public hearing on the issue. They said county processes thus far had ignored their needs and voices.
The public hearing is now slated for Friday, August 27 at noon in the KC Legislative Assembly Area, Jackson County Courthouse, Kansas City, Missouri. While tenants demanded a hearing at the meeting Monday, legislators cited the regulation that they post the hearing.
Concerns About Displacement, Compensation
Initially, county legislators at Monday’s meeting were prepared to vote on the release funds for the purposes of beginning to move tenants, in collaboration with the Community Service League (CSL). Following a presentation from JCDC Partners LLC on Owner’s Representative Services, tenants of Heart Village Mobile Home Park pushed back on the county going ahead with the current plans. Audience members cited a number of concerns, including lack of communication, the continuation of eviction proceedings and rent payments even after Jackson County acquired the property and concerns about insufficient levels of planned compensation for relocation expenses.
Urban Schaefer, for example, identified himself as a disabled veteran of the Marine Corps. He said he relies on oxygen as well as a ramp—needs he fears will not be met with new housing. “My neighbor...built me a ramp (and) didn't charge me a thing,” he explained of his current home at the mobile home park. “Now how…much more is that gonna happen, to build a ramp like would I need?”
Legislators explained residents would receive tailored relocation services. And, following public disruption, however, legislators allowed for a limited number of public comments like Schaefer’s and raised other questions about the process surrounding the new jail.
Legislators ultimately raised the current budget for relocation expenses and directed CSL to report back on additional fund needs, following meetings with residents of the mobile home park. They also agreed to hold a public hearing on the issue, currently scheduled for Friday, August 27 at noon in the KC Legislative Assembly Area, Jackson County Courthouse, Kansas City, Missouri.
1st District representative Jalen Anderson expressed concerns about fair compensation and adequate reporting processes to the board. County Legislative Chairman Dan Tarwater and County Administrator Troy Schulte also told audience members that the County would fully compensate residents for their homes, including purchasing new trailers for those whose homes cannot be moved.
Heart Village Tenants Issue Demands
The tenants issued the following statement in a press release made available via KC Tenants:
“The people showed up and shut it down today. The County wanted to go in a certain direction, without our voices. We refused to be silenced. We are happy to win several of our demands, but we’re not done fighting. Make no mistake: We won’t retreat until each and every one of us is fully and properly compensated for our homes. We won’t stop organizing until each of these commitments is in writing and delivered to us.”
Published on: 8/24/2021
Vigil for Malcom Johnson Held While Investigation Continues
Andrei Stoica and Brynn Fitzsimmons
8/14/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Family and friends held a vigil on Saturday, August 14 for Malcolm Johnson for his 32nd birthday at 63rd and Prospect in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
Friends and family of Malcolm Johnson held a vigil on Saturday, August 14 for his 32nd birthday at the site of the police shooting that resulted in his death.
“I just want everybody to know that he’s not who the media paints him to be,” said India, a friend of Malcolm’s. “Malcolm had a big heart, he's a great person, he didn't deserve to be killed the way he was. And we just want justice.”
Activist Chris Bizzle Jr. stressed the importance of both showing up for the event and continuing to push for justice--no matter how long it takes. “People think when you’re fighting for justice, it’s going to happen overnight,” he said. “I promise you: you’ve got to work hard. It’s like having a job.”
Police Interrupt Event at BP
Attendees began with a march from the Landing Mall to the BP gas station where police shot and killed Johnson on March 25. Police were called while attendees were at the gas station due to reports of blocked entrances that would interfere with business. Attendees pushed back on both the police and the gas station’s response to the event.
“They (the BP) try to act like they support us, but they really don’t. We've been trying to contact the store to work with them for months ahead of time, and they've just kind of dodged and so at this point, I just really feel like we need support, and justice for Malcolm,” India said. “I just feel like we need to come together and stay together because there’s strength in numbers.”
Steve Young of Friday Night Protest said the police interaction was an example of misguided priorities. “People come first,” he said. “People always come first. But the cops are out here...protecting property.”
“Somebody died right here in front of these cereal boxes and bread,” said activist Debbie Hendrix. “That man got a daughter that look exactly like him...she know exactly what happened to her daddy.”
After moving to the sidewalk at police direction, attendees released balloons in celebration of Johnson’s birthday while police looked on and many passersby honked or waved in support.
Troy Robertson of Team HONK emphasized that seeking justice for Johnson is tied up in seeking justice for many other victims of police brutality as well.
“I’m pissed that (the police) still covering up. They still making excuses for everything they do to us,” Robertson said. “I protest every day, not just for people that’s died but for everybody that’s living.”
Case Background and Response
The killing of Malcolm Johnson occurred March 25, 2021 at 63rd and Prospect in Kansas City, Missouri. Although initial reports said Johnson had shot at officers, striking one in the leg, the police narrative quickly came under scrutiny after video of the interaction cast doubt on the official report, in which Johnson can be seen lying face down, with several officers on top of him, well before any shots are fired. The call for transparency came after three videos, which appear to show an officer firing all audible shots, were turned over by faith leaders to the Kansas City, Missouri police department.
The case has resulted in increased demands for a civil rights investigation into the Kansas City, Missouri police department. The department is ranked 495 out of 526 departments with a 6% “Police Accountability” score and more police shootings per arrest than 95% of other departments, according to policescorecard.org.
The calls for accountability include letters to the United States Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting a federal investigation. The letters were sent by It’s Time for Justice in collaboration with Getting to the Heart of the Matter, a local group of faith leaders who had worked with KCPD in the past; a coalition of civil rights groups including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Urban League; and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Published on: 8/22/2021
Why the Activist Community of Kansas City Must Be Dismantled...and Replaced with Radical Democracy, Part 1
Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW - Guest Columnist
File photo of 2021 protests in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Brynn Fitzsimmons
Why the Activist Community Must Be Dismantled: An Introduction
8/20/2021 - Kansas City, Missouri
Editorial by Guest Columnist Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW
This last year (or last century) has put many things in perspective. Along with the advances with technology and innovation, there is an internalized programmed approach to how we address our social issues. None more relevant in the events over the past year in Kansas City.
Last year, I took a step back and observed what was happening in Kansas City as it responded to the deaths of Ahmed Arbury, Brianna Taylor, and George Floyd as well as locally afflicted families of Cameron Lamb, Donnie Sanders and Ryan Stokes. I wrote regarding my observation not just of the harm that is perpetuated on our community, but that of those who wish to address it: the community advocate. It is the community advocate that I wish to address. The community advocates are those who advocate for their community; those who organize, act and weigh in on the social justice and movement space of Kansas City. Although this is directed at those who claim labor or are present in this movement space, I welcome those who are entering this space to reflect as well as those who may be in opposition to seeking social justice.
I found myself thrust into the arena, where many requested assistance, counsel and participation in addressing the abuse of the oppressed and lives affected. In an effort to observe and navigate upon the quasi groups of community advocates (activists, organizers, and supporters). I find myself realizing the vagueness of communication, competence and education within those involved in advocacy. Not just that there were those who found purpose in advocacy, but also opportunity. The purpose of this observation is to provide perspective to the community advocate and to provide input that would assist in better mental, emotional, and physical navigation of this space.
In a recent interview, Adam Grant, an organizational psychology professor outlined three distinct problematic thinking styles we use to approach problems: The Preacher, The Prosecutor, and The Politician. "When we're in preacher mode, we're convinced we're right," explained Grant. The “Preacher” style is used when others are trying to persuade others to their way of thinking. "When we're in prosecutor mode, we're trying to prove someone else wrong," he continued. Grant goes on to say, “The politician I think is interesting. The politician mindset is about trying to win an audience’s approval. So that means I’m lobbying and campaigning for your support.”
Within the past year, involved with this movement space, I believe that I would have attempted to wear these three hats quite often. Within the preacher mindset, I would have ensured that I showed up at every protest and event I attended in an attempt to convince others to follow me as I have the answer for what is needed. Within the prosecutor, I would have shown up at every protest and event I attended as an attempt to expose the performative, self gratifying acts of the oppressor as well as other advocates within movement space. Within a politician mindset, I would have only shown up at every protest and event I attended in an attempt to gain the audience's approval to promote my own political aspirations by convincing others that I support their cause regardless if I believe in it. I can only imagine the newcomer community advocate as well as the seasoned advocate to do the same. Reactively, these mindsets were contemplated in an attempt to rationalize the trauma and harm done or done to others that takes place within this movement space.
We often see these three positions and/or mindsets (the preacher, the politician and the prosecutor) addressing the current events of systemic oppression, visible from both sides of addressing any social issue that lacks justice. Within their perspective fields, speaking from the street, podium or the pulpit, these mindsets tend to weigh in or perpetuate the oppression, while providing their lens of understanding. These three mindsets tend to be the emphasis made from Audre Lorde who wrote, “… survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”
The majority of flawed and harmful action done upon the community by advocates with these mindsets has been presented for decades let alone the most visible in the last year with “People's City”, Bartle Hall and multiple calls to actions that provoke a police response rather than addressing baseline inability to protect and serve communities of color, and the most afflicted: the Black populus of the KC metro area. These actions are both unnecessarily dangerous to Black folx (especially children) AND almost none of the activists involved could identify or correctly order systematic steps to DO most of the things they chanted about at these events. It becomes more apparent of the lack of education that is provided as well as lack of understanding of the action as well.
Advocates that operate with these mindsets can produce harm through these points of reference consciously, subconsciously and/or unconsciously. In the series that follows, I hope to see a transition from the Preacher/Prosecutor/Politician paradigm to revolutionary potential and change. I will explore the following basis of my argument:
Confusion regarding types of advocacy and The Triangulation of the Oppressed
The agentic state of allies
Epistemic Trespassing and Narrative Engineering
In the meantime, I'd ask you to use this post to assess where your current sense of "activism," "organizing," or support might fit.
This is part one of a five-part guest series from Cecil E. Wattree, LCSW, LSCSW.
Tenant Dies in Gabriel Tower Due to Lack of Security: Tenant Union to Hold Candlelit Vigil to Honor Resident
8/12/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
KC Tenants in front of Gabriel Tower at the Tenant Day of Reckoning on June 26, 2021.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
There is still no one securing the building.
“I feel fearful for myself and the other tenants in Gabriel Tower,” said James “Pappy” Stone, President of the Gabriel Tower Tenants Union. “We’re treated poorly and our rights are constantly violated. Tenants need the respect we deserve–proper security, upkeep and privacy–and we’re not getting it. It’s long overdue for Millennia to not do business anymore, and that’s not just at Gabriel Towers, but across the city.”
For over a year, tenants in Gabriel Tower have been organizing against their slumlord, The Millennia Companies, demanding better treatment in their homes. Mr. Jesse is not the first tenant whose death was preventable and caused by unsafe housing conditions in Gabriel Tower. In May, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge committed to a federal investigation of The Millennia Companies.
The vigil follows tenants protesting the death of their friend and neighbor, only to have their signs taken down and their demand for real, reputable security at Gabriel Tower unmet.
WHAT: Candlelight vigil to honor Mr. Jesse Bay and all tenants who have died as a result of unsafe conditions at Gabriel Tower
WHO: Gabriel Tower Tenant Union and KC Tenants
WHEN: TODAY, Thursday, August 12, 8 PM
WHERE: Gabriel Tower Apartments, 1600 Jackson Ave, Kansas City, MO 64127
Gabriel Tower Tenants Union (GTTU) is the tenant union for Gabriel Tower in Kansas City, Mo. GTTU formed in June 2020 and is led by residents of Gabriel Tower who are closest to the problems and therefore closest to the solutions. Gabriel Tower is a community of primarily residents who are elderly or with disabilities.
Kansas City Tenants (KC Tenants) is an organization led by a multiracial base of tenants in Kansas City. We know that poor people and communities of color will not be able to live in KC if we fail to imagine and win systemic change. KC tenants are organizing to ensure that everyone in KC has a safe, accessible, and truly affordable home.
Published on: 8/12/2021
Heart Village Mobile Home Park Residents Demand
Compensation From Jackson County
7/28/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Residents of the Heart Village Mobile Home Park, with support from KC Tenants, have released a list of demands to be compiled with by Jackson County. The demands were created following notice that the residents will be required to vacate their homes by February 2021 in order for the property to be used as the site for the construction of a new jail. The residents released the following press release, which includes the list of demands for Jackson County.
Over 55 residents of Heart Village Mobile Home Park released a set of demands on June 28, seeking compensation from Jackson County as the county advances plans to purchase the land beneath their homes for the site of the new county jail. The residents were informed last week that they will all be displaced from their homes by February 2022.
The Heart Village Mobile Home Park demands can be found here. KC Tenants is supporting residents to continue collecting signatures through the end of this month.
The residents issued the following statement:
“We are residents of Heart Village Mobile Home Park. After months of confusion and miscommunication, we have been informed that we will be displaced so that Jackson County can build a jail on the land where we currently reside in our homes. The County failed to make any real attempt to engage us, until the town hall forum last week. We were told that they would provide meager rental assistance to compensate for our trouble. That is not good enough.”
Their demands include:
A meeting between the residents and County Executive Frank White, County Administrator Troy Schulte, and County legislators before the end of August.
Full rent cancellation for the period between September 2021 and February 2022, when the County will have possession of the property.
Full compensation packages for each resident, including written confirmation from the County by the end of September.
A cash payment of at least $10,000, in addition to individual compensation packages, unrestricted in its use (i.e. not a rent assistance voucher).
RoNisha Rogers is the designated spokesperson for the Heart Village residents. KC Tenants plans to join RoNisha and her neighbors for more signature collection on Thursday evening at 5pm.
Published on: 7/29/2021
Civil Rights Groups Call for DOJ Civil Rights Investigation into KCPD
Andrei Stoica and Brynn Fitzsimmons
7/28/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Police Chief Rick Smith at the July 27 Board of Police Commissioners meeting in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
Two letters were submitted from local civil rights groups this week, calling on Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to open a Department of Justice Civil Rights Investigation into the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department.
It's Time 4 Justice submitted a letter requesting a Patterns and Practices Investigation and detailing what they termed, "narrative on some of the most egregious actions of the KCPD."
"There is a clear pattern of policing in Kansas City, MO that demonstrates horrendous practices of “excessive force, biased policing and other unconstitutional practices” from the police department," their letter said. "To facilitate with establishing trust for all community members of Kansas City, we implore you to open this Patterns and Practices Investigation as soon as possible."
The group also called out the Kansas City Fraternal Order of the Police, explaining, "Further, the Fraternal Order of Police union that protects the KCPD has made it quite evident that they have a lack of regard for doing the right thing by continuing to cover up police misconduct."
The letter was supported by Getting to the Heart of the Matter, a local group of faith leaders who had worked with KCPD to "establish trust and reduce violence." Several members of the group have recently begun to speak out against the department, resulting in apparent backlash from KCPD.
The group has also opened their own complaints collection portal, where anyone who has witnessed or been a victim of police misconduct can submit a complaint. Complaints can be submitted anonymously.
A local coalition of civil rights groups, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Urban League, More Squared, Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, El Centro and many other groups, also issued a 15-page letter to the attorney general, also requesting a civil rights investigation. The letter was released Monday, July 26.
Gwen Grant of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City said the groups had begun looking into KCPD practices in 2019 following the killing of Terrence Bridges. She said that as the groups investigated that particular incident, they uncovered more and more issues with the police department.
The request was also supported with a letter from Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters’ Baker. “There is a human and civil rights crisis in the city of Kansas City Missouri, and in Jackson County which has been longstanding and has caused great suffering, affliction, death, grief to our communities,” said Vernon Howard of SCLC at a press conference on Monday. “The core of those human and civil rights violations of our community lie within the Kansas City Police Department law enforcement and its leader Chief Rick Smith. We stand here today because we are left with no other recourse.”
Howard cited the state’s lack of intervention in public outcry over policing in Kansas City. Grant said the civil rights groups is hoping for a complete investigation of the department, similar to what was completed in Ferguson, Missouri. She said the letter aimed to provide a jumping off point for this type of investigation.
“Every single layer of operations in Kansas City Police Department must be investigated and laid bare so that we have accountability for the injustices that we have endured for far too long,” Grant said.
To see a version of this story that includes the full text of the available letters, click here.
Published on: 7/28/2021
“They Exploited and Extorted Us”: Homeless Union Says City Failed in Support
7/21/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Qadhafi, leader of the Kansas City Homeless Union, meets with Mayor Quinton Lucas on April 5, 2021.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
“I’m tired of being a program…I ain’t gonna be nobody’s program,” said Qadhafi, leader of the Kansas City Homeless Union, in an interview on Sunday, June 27. He spoke at that time of the failure of the city’s hotel program, which was meant to connect houseless individuals with services and permanent housing. However, as the hotel program came to a close and more permanent solutions continued to be tied up in committee, many unhoused leaders, including Qadhafi, expressed frustration. “Everything is a distraction—except what the fuck we asked,” he said.
KCHU’s initial demands were homes, water, jobs and a seat at the table in city decisions regarding houselessness. Qadhafi said none of those have happened. July 15 was the last date of the hotel program for unhoused individuals in Kansas City.
The Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee met Wednesday, July 21 at 10 a.m., and considered three proposals: one which would solicit Requests for Proposals for possible locations that could be converted into various housing solutions; one to create a solicitation process to increase current temporary services, such as shelters; and one which would allow the City Manager to enter into contract with Verge, a Pallet Community, to create pallet homes. All three proposals were held.
However, houseless individuals have pushed back against the continued expansion of city programs. Allie Stewart, who testified Wednesday, took issue with the solicitation of more proposals for services for the houseless—without that money going to the houseless.
“This is money was allocated for homeless people, not for everybody to jump on the bandwagon and see if they can bring into the fold so by the time you will get around to us, we there might be some left, hopefully,” she said.
City Council members emphasized the need for accountability from service providers as well as service providers for varying needs, and hoped the proposed legislation would enable new solutions to be brought forward.
“I look at this as an opportunity for us to follow our city process and establish an RFP…and really make informed decision about the best way to move forward,” said Councilwoman Rayna Parks-Shaw.
“Our housing needs are not just one,” said City Manager Brian Platt. “It’s not just one income level. It’s not just one type of person or one type of need, and we would like to leave it open to see what’s out there. It could be an old hotel that could be converted into housing. It could be a school. It could be a healthcare facility. It could be, you know, vacant housing. It could be a lot of things. And this will help us accept those proposals and then determine how much funding we’re going to need to set aside for that.”
Community Criticizes City’s Slow Response
All three items were held in committee, with Chairwoman Catherine Shields saying at the outset that she did not plan for the committee to take action until there was further information.
Public comment—which was initially limited to one minute until the public protested and Shields changed the limit to two minutes—commented on the city’s slowness.
“There's no urgency,” said Qadhafi, who is one of the leaders of the Kansas City Homeless Union as well as a leader with KC Tenants. “I’d like the city council to go and become homeless. Live in your car until the decision is made, but don't live in your luxury as house and make decisions.”
“We have a chairwoman by the name of Catherine Shields that seems to hold back and continue to delay, nothing but a change and direction in our city,” said Anton Washington, who is on Mayor Quinton Lucas’ Homeless Taskforce. He also reminded the committee that, with the eviction moratorium expiring July 31, housing insecurity and houselessness will only get worse.
Others, like Reverend Ester Holzendorf, pointed out that the city has known about the urgency of the problem for quite some time, given that 2021 started with the news of the death of Sixx (Scott Eicke), a houseless man who died of exposure on New Year’s Day. “Somebody froze to death,” Holzendorf reminded the committee. “Somebody died, for lack of whatever we can stop it. And we can do something about it and there is the urgency of now.”
Hotel Program and Addressing Houselessness
The program came following discussions between city officials and unhoused individuals, including the Kansas City Homeless Union, who occupied the grounds outside City Hall from the end of January up until the start of the hotel programs in March. Camp 6ixx, a houseless camp in Westport, had similar promises made, and many individuals there also went to hotels in March.
However, as the hotel program end date came closer, many KCHU members periodically returned to City Hall front lawn. They said they and other unhoused Kansas City residents were promised more than a temporary fix. A tiny home initiative, connection to wraparound services and other support were all part of what Kansas City Homeless Union Qadhafi said they were promised. Furthermore, KCHU has said they will take steps, including returning to City Hall, if needed, to get their initial demands met: homes, water, jobs and a seat at the table in decisions about houselessness.
Qadhafi said many involved in the hotel program “proved to be treacherous when money got involved.” He said many houseless individuals never received the wraparound services they were promised, and that they felt mistreated at the hotels.
“Feeding us was not in their so-called program, so I was personally setting different people to feed us,” he said.
“They was treating us like third-class citizens,” he said. “A lot of people left on their own.”
Elijah X, who stayed at two of the hotels during the initiative, said houseless guests were told they couldn’t use the pool or access food the same way other guests could. He said he was told, “It’s for paying customers, and if we do that, we’re disturbing them.”
Hotel Program Ends; Sweeps Restart
With the hotel program ending, several camps have reemerged, including Camp 6ixx. The camp, which is located in Westport, was swept Sunday, July 18, with video showing Kansas City Waste Management throwing camp items into trash trucks. Residents were taken to Penn Valley Park, where Midwest Homeless Collective worked to gather new supplies and donations to replace what had been lost in the sweep.
“How are we supposed to get jobs if we can’t sleep anywhere?” said one woman in the video, who said she is currently living in her car. “These are people’s homes. We just bought these tents last night, and you’re throwing them away?”
However, many houseless individuals have serious reservations about returning to shelters, and recount stories such as being turned away due to health issues.
Houseless individuals are also currently not allowed to return to City Hall lawn, where KCHU camped before the hotel program, due to issues with the City Hall Parking Garage. Several options are being considered by the city to fix the garage, with $5 million being the lowest cost option. Qadhafi said he was also arrested for allegedly trespassing on City Hall front lawn as houseless individuals began to return there earlier this month.
“They criminalized us,” he said. “They done turned us into criminals for being homeless.”
Several individuals gave testimony at Wednesday’s committee hearing regarding the violences of sweeps. Winifred Jamieson, who is also one of the leaders of Friday Night Protest, said she’d seen many of her neighbors’ homes swept.
“I used vacation time yesterday to pack up and relocate ten of my neighbors from their homes to Independence Avenue, Paseo because…the city evicted them with less than 24-hour notice,” she said. “In any other circumstance that action eviction would be illegal, but because my neighbors live in tents, they have no rights. (They’re told) either move or lose…their few belongings they have and be taken to jail. I don't think any of you understand the trauma every sweep causes our houses friends it is an act of violence.”
“They Value Property Over People.”
As concerns about location continue to come up in both full council meetings and committee meetings, Qadafhi said talk of houseless individuals or tiny home communities impacting property value ignore the humanity of houseless people.
“If everybody’s [saying] ‘not in my backyard,’ then there’s nowhere,” he said. “We depreciate the property value because there’s no human value.”
“They value property over people,” he said. “We homeless everywhere; we ain’t just homeless in the 3rd district.”
Qadhafi and other unhoused leaders also criticized the Lotus Group, the umbrella organization that has managed the hotel programs. City council raised questions in previous meetings regarding the money spent for Lotus’ services. Qadhafi, however, said, “The Lotus Group has no interest in us…had we had a seat at the table, the table would have include KC Tenants or some other group that’s been here,” he said. Instead, he said Lotus Group was underinformed and underequipped, and other groups, like the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness, “get paid to do stuff for the homeless.”
“We could have took $5 million and bought houses that’s already ready,” he said when discussing the amount the city spent for Lotus Group. “It’s a feel-good smokescreen.”
“It isn’t what they promised would be after this,” Jimmy, another core organizer with KCHU, said. “They promised that housing would be after this.”
KCHU is collecting funds via CashApp at $hugyohoodinc. MHC is collecting funds via their Facebook page.
Published on: 7/21/2021
“This Was an Execution”: Community Demands Justice for Malcolm Johnson
7/10/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Troy Robertson and others hold signs at an event for Malcolm Johnson at Mill Creek Park, Kansas City, Missouri on June 12.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
The demands for justice for Malcolm Johnson continue in Kansas City, Missouri with activists planning to hold an event on Johnson’s birthday, August 14. The event will be held near 63rd and Prospect where Johnson was killed by a KCPD officer on March 25, 2021. The investigation from the Missouri Highway Patrol was sent to the Jackson County Prosecutor at the end of June. The prosecutor’s office has not yet released a decision on whether it will charge any officers involved in the incident, and no date for a decision has been announced at this time.
On Saturday, June 12, protesters, community members and friends of Malcolm Johnson gathered in Mill Creek Park to demand justice in Johnson’s case. The protest came just a few days after the Missouri Highway Patrol announced they had finished their investigation of the police killing of Malcolm Johnson and had turned the case over to state investigators. Johnson was fatally shot by KCPD officers on March 25 during an arrest related to an aggravated assault case.
Per early media reports, KCPD reported that two officers had tried to arrest Johnson, had pulled a gun on the officers, and had shot one of them in the leg.
Since the release of several videos of the incident, however, numerous community members have pointed out at press conferences and via social media that, as Sheryl Ferguson of It’s Time 4 Justice pointed out in her voiceover of the cellphone recorded video of the incident, “The officer started shooting and immediately recoiled her arm at the same time that the other officer screamed ‘God damn it.’ The cop shot the cop, and then they shot Malcolm in the head two times. And then the Missouri State Highway Patrol substantiated the Kansas City Police Department’s lie. This was an execution.”
Protesters—including Troy Robertson of Team HONK—spoke of Johnson’s case as connected to the cases of other local victims of police shootings, including Donnie Sanders, Ryan Stokes, Terrance Bridges and Cameron Lamb.
Kymberly Davidson, who attended the June 12 protest and said she is a friend of the family, said she met Johnson last 4th of July, when they were at a family gathering and took turns watching the kids.
“Malcolm was a cool guy,” she said. “He was a good father. He was a good friend.”
She described the fear that Johnson’s killing has caused for his children, and said the children are afraid of being shot by police, too. “You have another child without a father,” she said.
She said she found out about Johnson’s death from the family on the same night it happened. “The story I was hearing was not the same story in the media,” she said, noting that early media reports described a “shootout” between Johnson and police.
“Come to find out, that was not the case,” Davidson said. She described seeing the videos released since Johnson’s death, which show shots being fired while Johnson is face down on the ground, with several officers on top of him. “Why does it take four officers to shoot him twice in the back of the head?” Davidson said.
“This is not an open and shut case,” said Pastor Darron Edwards during a June 3 press conference from faith leaders, who received three videos from the community of the incident, all of which appeared to contradict KCPD’s initial reports on the incident. “Let me tell you, Kansas City, when I look at the video? It looks like one officer shot another officer, then shot the victim twice in the head. The police can clear this up for me by telling us what really happened. We say we want Kansas City to be a safe city in every zip code, and we believe in policing—I want this on the record—but we don’t believe in this kind of policing in Kansas City.”
He also questioned why officers are still allowed to return to work while the investigation is ongoing. He said faith leaders turned over video they had received to Highway Patrol, “so that it can be included, not in an open and shut case, but in an ongoing investigation.”
Dr. Emanuel Cleaver III reiterated that while faith leaders are not anti-police, but also said, “There is a clear problem in Kansas City—it’s an ongoing problem. And that’s that there is an ongoing disconnect between police and the community, in particular, Black and brown communities. The question should be asked: why weren’t the videos handed over to law enforcement? Why were the videos handed over to us? And the question can be answered easily: it is because the community does not trust police,” he said. “We have to start with the top and work our way down. That’s the only way we’re going to really bring about change.”
“Kansas City, this is a moment for change,” Edwards said. “A change is going to come. This is what we believe.”
The “Justice for Malcolm” event will be held at 6 p.m. on August 14, starting at Troost Ave. and Meyer Blvd. and will include a march to the BP station on 63rd and Prospect.
Published on: 7/10/2021
KCMO BOPC Meeting Tuesday Expected to Continue Policing Conversation
6/14/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
6/14/ 2021 Update: Nathan Garrett, who served on the Board of Police Commissioners announced his resignation on June 14. Garrett, who voiced his opposition to the reallocation, said his resignation was due to a "change in residency." He sent his resignation on Friday, June 11.
Kansas City, Missouri Fraternal Order of Police president Brad Lemon in attendance at the Northland Town Hall in May.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
On Tuesday, June 15, the Kansas City, Missouri Board of Police Commissioners will meet for their first regularly scheduled meeting since the board met May 24 for a special closed session and voted to pursue litigation to block Mayor Quinton Lucas’ new legislation to reallocate police funding.
The first of the two ordinances reallocate $42,282,444 of the Kansas City Police department budget to the Community Services and Prevention Account of KCPD, which is intended to support community initiatives and prevention programs. The second allocates an additional $3 million to the Community Services and Prevention account. It authorizes the City Manager to execute an agreement with the Board of Police Commissioners of Kansas City, Missouri in a total amount not to exceed $45,282,444.00 for community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention, and other public services including recruitment efforts for a new police academy class. The motions passed KCMO City Council 9-4 on May 20.
The BOPC motion to pursue litigation against the ordinance initially passed 3-1, with Lucas voting no and Tolbert absent, at a May 24 meeting. An additional meeting held May 28 added Tolbert to the list of yes votes, resulting in a 4-1 pass.
A May 28 press release from the mayor said the city “reluctantly embraces” the litigation efforts from the BOPC: “While the Board’s lawsuit represents a call for the status quo, under the status quo, we have lost kids like LeGend Taliaferro. Under the status quo, two people were killed on our streets just yesterday. Folks, we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. The status quo is killing us,” the release reads. “As I’ve said before, Kansas City, reluctantly embraces this litigation to shed light on and strike down a system that for generations has been unfair, unconstitutional, and, sadly, unsuccessful."
Gwendolyn Grant of the Urban League has also filed a motion to “intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Board of Police Commissioners in order to assert my constitutional rights as a Kansas City taxpayer and as an African American,” she said in a press briefing on Monday, June 14. She described the BOPC lawsuit as an “attempt to cast off all limits on its ability to take Kansas City’s tax dollars (that) violates the Missouri constitution.”
“This is about taxation without representation. We are taking this fight to the ourt to seek remedy for decades and decades, decades upon decades of injustice,” she said.
Failure of the Status Quo
The mayor’s comments on the failure of the status quo were far from the only sentiments to that effect in recent weeks. At the last BOPC meeting on May 11, during the public comment portion, Tierra Cox—sister of Terrence Bridges, who was killed by a KCPD officer, said her brother was never even given a command to stop before the officer shot him.
“How does KCPD feel having so much blood on their hands? Because how does y’all sleep at night?” she asked. “How do y’all keep this same police on the force, this same chief, when people keep getting killed?”
“I don’t see no good intentions from the police,” she said. “Oh, because you wear a uniform you get the right to kill my brother? No. You don’t got the right—you not God.”
Other speakers, like Odessa Andre of More Squared, tied the issue directly to Police Chief Rick Smith. “Chief Smith has continuously slandered the oath of this force,” she said. “The integrity…of KCPD is rancid.”
Khadijah Hardaway of Justice for Wyandotte also gave public comment. “My soul drug me here,” she said. “My soul said to me that I do not know you, Chief Rick Smith. I do not know you, Pastor Edwards. I do not know you Brad Lemon. I do not know you, Jean Peters Baker. I do not know you, Don Parson. But I do know that you have covered up corruption for far too long.”
“It’s time for you to go, because there are too many Black people…that I continue to see die at your hands with no accountability, with no transparency,” she said. She demanded the police release the videos of the killing of Malcolm Johnson from March 25, at 63rd and Prospect. Local faith leaders later released three videos they had been given by members of the community, noting that those videos contradicted initial police reports.
Sheryl Ferguson of It’s Time 4 Justice also spoke about the lack of accountability or responsiveness from Smith. “It makes me wonder where is the common sense of hearing all the concerns from so many, civil rights and activist organizations, church groups from various religious backgrounds and many citizens who have constantly posed how concerned they are if this Chief is the right person for this position, for this city,” she said.
“Instead of hearing real conversations to speak with these groups and talk to ways to improve his actions, we have only heard the arrogance of ‘I am not going to resign or retire.’ Never asking what can I do better. Instead we get double talk in an answer of what policing model he uses,’” she said. In reference to two common policing strategies, she added, “Unless he is using the Guardian in the North and West regions of the city, but we can tell he is using the Warrior in the areas where the people I care about live. The Bible says a double minded man is unstable in ALL his ways. How much more time and taxpayer money will you continue to waste?”
Mayor’s Reallocation Ordinances Explained
Melesa Johnson, special advisor to Lucas, explained the legislation this way, “First and foremost, I do want to be clear that this is not an effort to defund the police department. We value our officers and the services that they provide to the city. But what this does is it reroutes the money back to the police department with certain parameters on how that money can be spent.”
She said the legislation is in response to the rising crime rate, which has been a longstanding concern for city leadership. “We know from these past five years, we had a constant uptick a crime,” she said. “We've been writing blank checks to the police department. We increased their funding by $8 million last year. We gave them $3 million more this year for a police academy class. All we want to be sure is that city council has some say and how that money is deployed.”
One of the issues, she said, is that city council does not have direct oversight of the police department, since the Board of Police Commissioners, with the exception of Lucas, is appointed by the governor rather than elected by the people. “Since we are the only city in the entire state of Missouri that does not have local control of its police department, this is the only mechanism that we have to have some sort of say on how that money is spent, for example, increased prevention services,” she explained. “We love our officers. We trust our officers. We just want to have some sort of say like every other city in the state of Missouri, and how our taxpayer dollars are being spent to make the city safer.”
Public Hearings Over Reallocation
Several public hearings have been held regarding the reallocation ordinances. One, held May 27 by Northland councilmembers Kevin O’Neill, Heather Hall, Teresa Loar and Dan Fowler.
Speakers said they were afraid to go to the Plaza because of lack of police and stressed the need for “law and order,” claiming the reallocation was reducing funding to police. One speaker, Sandra, said, “We don’t need social justice; we need rule of law where everyone is responsible for their actions.”
President Brad Lemon also spoke, claiming the department was underfunded and that the reallocation of police budget into community programs, even with the additional funding for the police academy class, would further reduce police officers.
“We’re not going to call social workers to protect this city,” he said.
But therapists and social workers like one speaker, who identified herself as Anna, disagreed. She said that, given that “where poverty exists, simultaneously crime increases because of lack of resources,” that the reallocation may help.
“My understanding is that the reallocation of the funding is into community programming for prevention of violent crime, mental health, conflict resolution, different preventative measures, such as education,” she continued.
However, she was not able to finish her statement due to interruptions from the crowd, who eventually shouted at her to the point that she was forced to leave the podium before her time was up.
“I want to hear everybody. That’s what we do up here,” Councilman Dan Fowler said in response to the incident. However, similar responses met others who spoke against the police department or in favor of the Mayor’s ordinances.
Johnson—who came on behalf of Lucas, who could not attend—said in an interview following the meeting that while Northland council members in particular have said they were upset by the same-day passage of Lucas’ ordinances, that same-day adoptions are within the realm of city procedure and policy.
Another meeting, held June 5 by The Kansas City Call, included comments from Lucas and other city councilmembers who had voted in favor of the ordinance.
“You've heard a lot of distortions, right? Some folks have said, ‘Oh, this is defunding the police?’” Lucas said. “Well, as I see the ordinance, and we got to look at it closely, there's a whole bunch of money that can only go to the police department. All we want to be able to do is say at the end of the year, did this help work on efforts relating to prevention and community services? Does this help folks work with our neighborhoods?”
Upcoming BOPC Meetings
The regular BOPC meeting on Tuesday, June 15 will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will include a public comment section. Other upcoming meetings include an Audit Committee Meeting on Friday, June 25 at 10 a.m. and a hearing related to disciplinary proceedings for sergeant Gregory Satter on Friday, July 23 at 9 a.m.
Published on: 6/14/2021
Friday Night Protest Holds One Year Memorial Event
6/4/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
People kneeling and holding a banner with the names of victims of police shootings in front of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department at the one year anniversary of Friday Night Protest.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
On Friday, June 4, at 6 p.m., the leaders of the Friday Night Protest held a one year memorial event to honor the lives of over 150 people who have been killed by Kansas City Police Department Officers. The event also commemorated a year since the protest--which has met weekly outside KCPD Headquarters--has been going.
Steve Young and Winifred Jamieson, the leaders of the Friday Night Protest, have stated that their protest aims to hold space for victims of KCPD officer violence, “saying the names of the local victims of police violence,” as Young said on Friday. They have also demanded the removal of Chief Rick Smith, greater accountability for officers and the defunding of KCPD.
Friday’s event included speeches from the families of a number of people who were killed by KCPD officers.
One of Cameron Lamb’s sisters, who did not share her name, said she felt it was important to talk about her brother as a person expressly because who he was as a person is often glossed over:
“I would just like to talk about (Cameron) as a person because I feel like since all of this happened, a lot of the things that have been in the media haven't really reflected him in a good light. Like they don't usually talk about the good things about a person, they immediately get shot by the police, you get killed by the police, they immediately start putting out bad things about you, like it was your fault that you got murdered.
But my brother, he loves people, he loves people. And he was such a comedian. He will always tell jokes, and we will always have a good time, every time we were together. He was a great father. He had three boys, he has nieces, and he has a niece and nephews that he was always doing stuff with. And he was always around. And I just feel so sad that the kids don't get to experience him anymore. It's been really hard for our family, just knowing the type of person that he was, the things that we had to go through.
I just really wish that we could just help hold the police officers accountable for when they do something wrong. And they shouldn't get all of this time to get a story straight, and have time to figure out what's going on. And just like, if any citizen wants to murder somebody, they will get arrested immediately. And they will put them in the interrogation room, and they would be interrogating them immediately after they were arrested. Just like you're gonna do a drug test and do all of that stuff on dead bodies, you need to do the same thing with the police officers, because they do more drugs and do more bad things than the citizens that they claim they are here to protect.
So I just want everybody, please continue to support our family because it's not over. The officer he was indicted. But he hasn't been. He hasn't been convicted. He hasn't been convicted yet. And he needs to be convicted.”
Narene Stokes, Ryan’s mother, also shared her son’s story:
“Okay, first of all, I would like to apologize to you, and ask for your forgiveness. Because this is my very first time here. I would like for you to accept my apology and forgive me, because I don't know where I've been. Good job in calling Ryan's name out. And that's all good. Because I'm here for you. And with you for the same reason. Thank you.
Okay, Ryan was killed on July 28, 2013. He was 24 years old, down here at Power and Light to have himself a nice time, as most young men and young ladies do. And then there is some kind of confusion, some kind of altercation. And they say, Ryan had a gun, wouldn't put it down. So they had to shoot him. But it was a lie.
You know, any mother's gonna go view her son, my only son. Now this is my baby boy. They are gonna view him, and he's shot in the back. How do you call that justifiable? When you shoot a man in the back and he don't have a gun.
So it's gone on eight years for me. Eight years since Ryan's been killed. Murdered. It's just not right. It's not right. How they're killing our young men? And think they can get away with it. And I mean, "they" when I say "they", I mean the police. I mean, the mayor of this city. I mean, the governor. This is happening right here in Kansas City. And they ain't trying to do a doggone thing about it. They just want us to be silent. They want us to sweep things under the rug. And we're not going to do that. We see now; we're standing here for a reason, right? We want justice, we need change.”
Reshonda Sanders, the sister of Donnie Sanders, talked about how her brother was killed during a traffic stop. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker recently said she would not press charges against the officer involved.
“My brother did not deserve to die. No matter how they try and portray him or make him look like he was the bad guy. He was only trying to drive home. That was a you know, one thing I just don't understand.
I still will never understand how he was going southbound on Prospect, and the officer was coming northbound on Prospect, and what made him make a U-turn to come after my brother. I don't know. He literally made a U-turn and followed him and just chased him.
My brother's scared you know? I don't understand, you know, like, he jumped out the truck and ran. I don't understand it. The opposite side was in any type of harm while my brother run in front of you. (He was) caught with a gun...but (he was) running from (the officer).
...How is it that they can hear him supposedly saying what he was saying (on the dash cam footage) if that my brother was killed around the corner? I don't understand that. But you said you ain't got no evidence (to prosecute).”
Travis Griffin’s uncle, who did not give his name, also spoke about the injustice and lack of accountability in policing in Kansas City:
“I've never seen anywhere in the world where taxpayers pay to die like in Kansas City, Missouri. On January 8 2018 my nephew was shot and killed by KCPD. He made a flaw one day, and he was a good kid. His flaw was a fatal one: he ran from police. That encounter cost him six shots in the back. One in the arm, one in the leg. When the witness account said that he was not a threat to KCPD, video evidence said the same. Yet still nothing has come of this officer who shot my nephew in the back six times and killing him. It's been tough for my little sister to even speak up.
I just don't know what to say. It's terrible, tragic. And it's got to come to an end. You know, we all love each other while we're here and tell each other often. Because in the blink of an eye, it can all be over with. You know, my nephew was a good kid, but that one flaw was a fatal one.”
Faith Leaders Express Support
Several faith leaders also spoke at Friday’s rally, praising the efforts of Friday Night Protest and calling for greater accountability and change in the Kansas City Police Department.
“What you've done has made a difference, what you've done where it has made a difference, and it cannot be unnoticed, it cannot be covered up. Now they did it, they did it because of some lives, some brothers’ and sisters’ lost or taken when they shouldn't have been, but at the hands of KCPD,” said Reverend Nia Chandler of St. Mark Union Church. “They did it because they're seeking justice that still hasn't been realized. Because you have people that want to put things under the rug, cover things up, not tell the truth. Well, the devil is a liar, because the truth does rise to the light, and anything that (is) hidden will become unhidden.”
“Steve and Win, bless you, and all of those partners who are with you. And the persecutions you face, the difficulties you face, because of the stance that you take--don't even get it twisted. Your God will have the last word in Kansas City,” said Dr. Vernon Howard of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Kansas City. “A truth (about) a police, a law enforcement agency that cares more about a statue, about a monument than about the Black lives that it takes. Kansas City is a major metropolitan area that allows for an apartheid like police system by other folks in another city in the state."
Continued Push for Change
Troy Robertson of Team HONK, who has reported multiple instances of being brutalized and targeted by police officers, stressed the need to continue to work for justice. “We have to make a change, and I stand there, hold the signs out for peace honk, honk for unity, honk for justice; for these kids. You see what I'm saying? We got to stand up for these kids.”
Robertson was arrested later that evening and held for over 24 hours with a bond of over $4,500. Alleged citations were DWI, property damage, driving slowly and setting fire in a public street. Robertson said the arrest came after he left the event, and that officers forced him off the road, causing him to crash his car and break his wrist.
Young and Jamieson stressed the importance of continuing to fight for justice for those who have been brutalized or targeted by KCPD, including Robertson. They plan to continue their protest next Friday, June 11, at 6 p.m.
Published on: 6/5/2021
Mayor’s Ordinance to Reallocate KCPD Funding Passes City Council 9-4
5/20/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas
File photo by Andrei Stoica
Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced a motion at the May 20 City Council meeting to reallocate $42,282,444 of the Kansas City Police department budget to the Community Services and Prevention Account of KCPD, which is intended to support community initiatives and prevention programs.
Lucas said the reallocation is aimed at ensuring KCPD funds are used with greater accountability. “This is just about accountability,” he said. “When I was third district at large, there was not a single community meeting where people didn't say, ‘Councilman Lucas, what are you doing about violent crime in our city?’ And you know what I get kind of tired of saying, ‘Well, you know, I voted on the budget back in March. And I'll follow up and ask some more questions for it.’ So maybe this is just one little step.”
The five percent decrease to the department budget was passed city council with a vote of nine to four. The motion was introduced for same day advanced priority consideration with opposition from Councilman Dan Fowler who said, “I doubt I will support it when it comes before council, hopefully after it's been vetted, and talked about."
The councilman also voiced a concern about “transparency in government” regarding waiving additional readings.
“We have no way of knowing how we're going to spend $42 million. Is going to go to law enforcement? Is going to go to some of the community program that somebody links to law enforcement, reducing crime? I have no idea. This is wrong. I can't support this," he said.
Fowler was one of the four votes against Ordinance 210466 alongside council members Kevin O'Neil, Heather Hall and Teresa Loar.
“This is my 14th year down here. This is the worst piece of legislation I've ever seen down here. The worst, by far” said Hall. “One thing I didn't notice on here, Mr. Mayor, are your two police officers who protect you day in and day out. They're not being cut.”
Councilman Brandon Ellington, who voted in favor of the legislation said “Why is it important? It's important because people that are law enforcement officers are actually individuals that work for and are restricted to policy implications. on a local level”
”When we talk about law enforcement, the conversation is broken down to us versus them. If you find yourself understanding of which position you are in, are you them or are you us? That is problematic because we're talking about a public safety entity.” he added.
Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McManus agreed, citing the reallocation ordinance as well as a second ordinance that supplies additional city funding to KCPD for the community programs: “DC and Jefferson City, what they want us to think is that this is an us versus them situation, us versus law enforcement, community versus law enforcement. That's not what this is about. These two ordinances together are actually an invitation for cooperation, an invitation for collaboration.”
The second ordinance (210468), allocates $3 million to the Community Services and Prevention account. It authorizes the City Manager to execute an agreement with the Board of Police Commissioners of Kansas City, Missouri in a total amount not to exceed $45,282,444.00 for community engagement, outreach, prevention, intervention, and other public services including recruitment efforts for a new police academy class.
Councilwoman Mellisa Robinson spoke on Twitter following the vote expressing her support for the ordinance specifically because it would provide support for the academy class.
Hall also took to Twitter to announce a Town Hall discussion on Thursday May 27 at 6:30 pm at Northland Neighborhoods Inc, hosted by the four council members who voted “no” on both ordinances.
"Ordinance 210466 introduced & passed May 20th cut the KCMO Police Budget by $42 million without public input,” the flyer reads.
The Board of Police Commissioners is also pushing back, with all members except Lucas (Commissioner Tolbert absent) voting to initiate litigation against the ordinance during a closed session meeting held Monday, May 24. Sunshine Law attorney Bernie Rhodes told KSHB 41 the meeting may have violated laws regarding closed meetings needing to have clear agenda items and explanation for why they are closed meetings.
Ordinance 210466 reallocated but did not cut police department funding, while Ordinance 210468 added $3 million to support Community Service and Prevention.
“This actually increases the police budget over what it is in the adopted budget for the city of Kansas City,” Lucas said.
The town hall event is open to the public and will be held 5340 NE Chouteau Trafficway, Kansas City, Missouri.
Published on: 5/26/2021
Olathe North Coach Terminated for Using Racial Slurs
5/10/2021- Olathe, Kansas
Protesters call for firing of Olathe North baseball coach Pete Flood in front of Olathe North High School on Saturday, May 8.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
In a unanimous decision Monday, the Olathe School Board voted to uphold the recommendation of the district superintendent to immediately terminate baseball coach Pete Flood in response to reports that he used racial slurs when addressing a student.
The vote was part of a special session held by the board today in response to a statement made by an Olathe North parent on social media Friday morning. According to the statement, Flood used racial slurs when talking to a student during batting practice at a Thursday night baseball game.
School board president Joe Beveridge apologized to the family of the student and thanked them for reporting Flood’s behavior. He said that the district would “act swiftly to prevent this from happening ever again.” Beveridge added, “Anyone who demonstrates racism and bigotry like this has no place in our district.”
He also recommended the district evaluate its diversity training program for teachers, staff, coaches, and students. “You can and should expect more from the Olathe School District. We will learn from this, and we will be better in the future,” he said.
Another school board member highlighted the importance of speaking up when witnessing racist behavior, using the phrase “silence is acceptance.”
There was no discussion during today’s meeting of whether Flood would be eligible for employment in other districts following his termination.
Community demands for this decision have been evident since the parent’s statement was published on social media Friday morning. In addition to an outpouring of comments on social media that were in support of the family and in favor of terminating Flood, on Saturday afternoon, families rallied in front of Olathe North High School in an event organized by The Miller Dream, LLC along with other local groups. Demonstrators set up signs for passing cars and chanted phrases including, “End white silence about racist violence,” “Black lives matter in our schools,” and “Today is the day racism goes away.”
A representative of The Miller Dream stated that the purpose of the protest was to call for the immediate termination of Pete Flood, along with other reparative measures for the incident, including a public apology and mental health resources provided by the school district for those harmed by the incident.
According to a statement issued by Olathe Public Schools, at the time of the protest, Flood was on administrative leave, and the district had issued a recommendation for his termination to the Olathe School Board.
“Although there has been a recommendation [to terminate Flood],” a representative of The Miller Dream said, “We’re here standing to basically push for accountability with the schools for a zero-tolerance policy for racism.”
They added, “We’re also demanding that there’s an independent investigation into this matter, because we’re aware that these incidents occur more frequently than most know in our communities.”
Other incidents of racial harassment & discrimination cited by parents of local students include the 2017 case of a Blue Valley school district student being excluded from a dance performance because of her dark skin and the Shawnee Mission school district community’s call in 2020 for the dismissal of a principal who allegedly made racist remarks.
The Olathe School Board’s decision to terminate Flood during today’s session addressed some of the concerns raised by Saturday’s protestors, most notably the termination of the coach and the public statement of apology. Others, like the request for mental health resources for those impacted by the incident and an independent investigation of the incident, were not directly addressed.
Published on: 5/11/2021
KU Black Student Coalition Holds Ceremony of Silence
4/23/2021- Lawrence, Kansas
Attendees gather at the KU Black Student Coalition’s Ceremony of Silence outside Strong Hall at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas on Friday, April 23.
Photo by Justin Ferguson
The KU Black Student Coalition (KUBSC), in collaboration with the Jayhawker Liberation Front and the KU Black Student Union, held a Ceremony of Silence for victims of police brutality across the nation on Friday, April 23. The event, which was held outside Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, included brief speeches, a space for silence and the reading of the names, dates of birth and death, and location and reason of death for over 170 individuals killed by police.
Keir Rudolph, a senior elementary education major at KU and the vice president of the Black Student Coalition, said the hope for the event was “to create that safe space of silence and reflection and recollection.”
Rudolph said it was important to hold the event on KU’s campus as a way of supporting and holding space for students of color.
“Sometimes, when you attend to predominately white institution, especially like KU, you kind of just feel like you're ignored and invisible,” he said. “Even when the provost or other administration sends out messages, they're always either lukewarm or they always ignore the real issue at hand, and they don't specifically call out racism or bigotry.”
“I know that if I'm one student feeling it, then other students of color also most definitely feel it,” he explained. “So I think just organizing that space around is…why I do (events like this), from a student's perspective.”
Rudolph said it was important to him to read not only the names, but also the locations and causes of death for victims of police brutality. He said including details such as location helped highlight the many places across the nation that have a longstanding “policing problem.”
“You can see that the police are in fact serving their role which is not to serve and protect, but to murder and kill to serve and protect the ruling class,” he said.
“The police are a reactive force at best, because the crime’s already happening,” he said. “So if that's the case, then we need to…divert the money from the police into a situation to where we can start becoming a proactive society and adjusting the things that are causing these crimes.”
“It's hard to imagine because I've been socialized for it, but people need to start to imagine that protection doesn't necessarily mean that you got to shoot this person down,” he said. “You can definitely abolish the police and still find ways to protect your community.”
Other Actions Address Lack of Admin Support
The KU Black Student Coalition also recently led a sit-in of Strong Hall following budget cuts, changes to the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, and the firing of multiple BIPOC faculty and staff.
“Those were to get the provost’s attention,” Rudolph said of protest actions like the sit-in. For KUBSC, “attention” includes response to national issues, but also issues specific to KU. Rudolph said un- or under-investigated incidents of racism or sexual assault on campus and lack of recruitment or support for students of color were all issues addressed at earlier actions.
Rudolph said the burden of supporting students through recent events, such as the murders of Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant, has repeatedly fallen on people of color, including student groups like KUBSC as well as faculty and staff of color across campus.
“It seems like admin is just leaving that up to the people of color to do the work themselves,” he said. “It just lands on us the students of color that you'd like us to do the work and...hold that space.”
Rudolph said that while he will be graduating this year and leaving KU, he is confident that other members of KUBSC and other groups will continue working for campus change and to support Black students, including through events like the Ceremony of Silence.
Published on: 5/2/2021
Kansas City Coalition Refuses Meeting with Mayor and Chief of Police, Releases Open Letter
4/22/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Black Rainbow, the Kansas City branches of NAACP and SCLC, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, National Black United Front - Kansas City, Operation Liberation and Urban Summit have refused to participate in the recent meeting with Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas and Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith. Black Rainbow released the following press release, which includes the coalition's full letter on the issue.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In a major show of unity and solidarity, legacy Civil Rights organizations have united in coalition with young, Black-led abolitionists to reject Mayor Quinton Lucas’s complicity with police violence in Kansas City. Nearly a year after their initial demands were put to Mayor Lucas, not a single one has been met by the mayor.
They have penned an open letter to Mayor Lucas, Police Chief Rick Smith, and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker rejecting performative politics, and demanding true substantial change.
“The black community in Kansas City voted for him, and he’s turned around and slaughtered us by not addressing our policing issues,” said Alexander Paul of Black Rainbow.
Originally formed last year to stand up against the Trump administration’s federal occupation of Kansas City, Operation Legend, the coalition bridges the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.-era civil rights leaders to new, bold abolitionist groups at the forefront of the movement for Black lives. Among others listed in the letter, their demands include:
DIVEST from KCPD by legislating a budget cut, whereas the total KCPD budget shall be reduced to 20% of the general fund as required by state law.
INVEST in a community-established People’s Budget by redirecting KCPD funding to resources such as housing, healthcare, sustainable infrastructure and education.
The full letter with all demands can be read below:
Dear Mayor Lucas, Police Chief Rick Smith, and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker,
On April 21st 2021, Mayor Quinton Lucas along with Police Chief Rick Smith and the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office requested a meeting with leaders of the Kansas City community in anticipation of the upcoming verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. This invitation follows a year of organizers making clear demands to city/state officials, including Mayor Lucas, and being met with silence and false promises. This call for communal dialogue reminds us of last summer when you knelt with us in the afternoon and set a curfew to teargas us by the evening.
Tuesday, April 20th in a CNN interview, Mayor Lucas stated that he would be meeting with organizers in an effort to deter potential civil unrest in the aftermath of the Chauvin verdict, implying a collaborative relationship that is nonexistent on this issue. As is common with Mayor Lucas, his remarks on this issue were a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Since May 2020, Mayor Lucas has engaged in political posturing at the expense of members in our community who are most impacted by police violence. We will not be party to his political shenanigans. Therefore, we declined the invitation to attend a meeting regarding the Chauvin verdict, which was held Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
Our response to Mayor Lucas, Chief Rick Smith, and the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office is simple:
We will not take part in performative politics. We are justice seekers, not order keepers. State-sanctioned violence via the KCPD, a publicly funded institution, is being inflicted upon our community with impunity. The KCPD, under the leadership of Chief Rick Smith remains a racist institution, both systemically and structurally. Smith’s leadership fosters a white supremacist culture that breeds violence, engages in archaic over-policing, and blatantly disregards the humanity of Black people. We will not back down and we will not be silent amid such.
Furthermore, the recent reforms announced by KCPD are miniscule, ineffective, inadequate, and don’t produce structural change. Moreover, they do nothing to dismantle systemic racism in the execution of policies, practices and procedures.
If order is desired in society, justice is required. Justice is required on behalf of Terrance Bridges, Cameron Lamb, BB Hill, Ryan Stokes, Donnie Sanders, Deja Stallings, and numerous other victims of violence at the hands of KCPD.
We remain resolute in our demands:
● REMOVE Police Chief Rick Smith
● DIVEST from KCPD by legislating a budget cut, whereas the total KCPD budget shall be reduced to 20% of the general fund as required by state law.
● INVEST in a community-established People’s Budget by redirecting KCPD funding to resources such as housing, healthcare, sustainable infrastructure and education.
● DISMANTLE the Office of Community Complaints
● ESTABLISH an independent community-based and governed office of complaints
● CREATE foot-chase policy on non-violent allegations which protect and serve
● MANDATE the immediate suspension without pay for officers under criminal indictment
● CREATE a transformative/strategic reparations plan for the families of those who have been murdered by KCPD
● WITHHOLD pensions and don't rehire officers involved in excessive force
● REQUIRE officers to be liable for misconduct settlements
● CAP overtime accrual + OT pay for military exercises
● WITHDRAW participation in police militarization programs
● ESTABLISH open records ordinance ensuring that officers’ misconduct information and disciplinary histories are not shielded from the public
● APPOINT special prosecutor to investigate alleged police misconduct
In solidarity with justice and peace,
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Black United Front - KC
Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater KC (SCLC-GKC)
Urban League of Greater Kansas City
Urban Summit of Kansas City
Published 0n: 4/22/2021
BOPC Passes Policies for First Amendment Protected Activities, Digital Media Recording
3/23/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
File photo of Mayor Quinton Lucas at a BOPC meeting
Photo by Andrei Stoica
The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners passed several policy reforms at their meeting on March 23, 2021 at police headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Policies modified included the First Amendment Protected Activities policy and the Internally Recorded Digital Media Policy.
The policy relating to body cameras outlined the intended procedures for body camera use. The Police Department first formally announced plans to implement body cameras in June 2020 and announced their initial implementation in January 2021. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Police Commissioners approved the expenditure of $795,203 for the purchase of body cameras, using a combination of federal dollars from Operation Legend and a grant from the Kansas City Police Foundation.
According to the most recent press release from the department about the Internally Recorded Digital Media Policy, body cameras must be used by all police officers for the full extent of all interactions with citizens. Digital footage recorded via body cameras will only be stored for 180 days, unless it is considered evidence in a criminal investigation. Longer storage times have reportedly not been implemented because the cost of doing so would be outside the current budget.
Parts of the body camera policy were “reworded for clarity” prior to the policy’s passage on March 23, according to department officials who spoke during the meeting. The only wording change highlighted during the meeting was a portion of the policy in which “members should activate their body worn camera at the outset of each contact” with a citizen was changed to “members will activate.”
The second of the two policies, the First Amendment Protected Activities Policy, was introduced at the February Board of Police Commissioners Meeting and approved during the March meeting. The policy sets forth guidelines for officers to follow when engaging with protesters and others engaged in First Amendment protected activities. These guidelines include steps to follow when a group’s activities have been designated by the police as unlawful assembly. Specifically, the policy prohibits police from using less than lethal weapons or from using “munitions (other than chemical agents)” to disperse such groups, according to the department’s most recent press release about the policy. The use of less than lethal weapons by the Kansas City Police Department to disperse protestors last summer was controversial because it reportedly resulted in serious injuries for some members of the community.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also reviewed regular statistics reports that indicated a continuation of the trend over the last several years of increased homicides rates year over year. The board discussed concerns over decreases in performances in divisions like DUI, Narcotics & Vice, and Parking Control, as well as a decrease in the number of cases submitted to the prosecutor for various divisions.
Chief Rick Smith cited loss of staff as the main reason for these lags. Acting Deputy Chief Mike Hicks also mentioned in his report on the regional crime lab’s performance, “We are seeing an increase in people leaving” the department - up 45 year to date in 2021, from 33 year to date in 2020.
The board is set to meet Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 1 p.m. for a special meeting related to the budget, and will meet again the following Tuesday, April 27, at 9:30 a.m. for their regular meeting.
Published 0n: 4/14/2021
Hickman Mills School Board Candidates Focused on Accreditation, Future Directions for District
4/5/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
The Hickman Mills School District will vote tomorrow, Tuesday, April 6, for two new school board members. The school board election appears on the ballot in addition to city issues, such as the e-tax.
School board president Cecil Wattree highlighted the importance of tomorrow’s election. “I think that in whatever outcome of the election, we will need transparency and accountability from top to bottom,” he said. “With our current advancements with teacher pay and Return to Learn plan, we need to continue to build a culture of governance that leads by example.”
There are five candidates running for two board seats. Key points in discussions among candidates have included district accreditation, a safe return to school, business/community partnerships and district culture. The five candidates are incumbent Carol Graves, Ron Pearson, Ebony Osby, Ann Coleman and Clifford Ragan III. A sixth candidate who will appear on the ballot, John Carmichael, is no longer running.
Both Graves and Ragan ran in the last election but did not win. All five active candidates have offered details on their platforms at various forums.
Osby and Pearson have been endorsed by former District Superintendent Dr. Marge Williams as well as current board member Alvin Brooks.
Osby is a former school district teacher, and said her priorities are accreditation, increasing parent involvement and raising salary for teachers. She said increasing support for teachers is a key tool in gaining accreditation.
Pearson is an Army veteran. He served 21 years in the Army and has contracted with the Department of Defense. He also holds a degree in organizational leadership. He said he would use his background in policy and organization to work for strategic improvement plans and strategic community partnerships.
Graves and Coleman have been endorsed by Freedom, Inc., where Graves also serves as a committee member. DaRon McGee, who currently sits on the board, is also on Freedom, Inc.’s board.
Coleman has degrees in education and special education and is a long-time resident of the district. She said her priorities included accreditation and parent programs to help parents better assist their students.
Graves has 20 years of classroom teaching experience, six years serving on the board, and said changing school culture was her top priority for the next term. She said lack of parental involvement is a key issue, as is pay and support for teachers.
Ragan has also served on the board previously, including as vice president, but did not win re-election last term. He has also been involved in the PTA, Harvesters, and Booster’s Club. He said his priories are accreditation and addressing that “the Hickman Mills School District has had no identity.”
Current Board Directions
In addition to the Return to Learn plan, which the district is implementing to safely bring students back to school, the district has several other initiatives that the new board is anticipated to address.
At its March 25 meeting, the board approved a salary increase for teachers, to begin at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The move aimed to make salaries competitive—an issue that came up throughout the school board election.
The change places the district at one of the highest maximum salaries for the Kansas City metro when including experience and education.
The board is also discussing policy changes related to board behavior and ethics as the district tries to move toward accreditation. Wattree introduced discussion at the March 25 meeting relating to more formal requirements for meeting attendance. Board member attendance has been an issue at recent meetings, with Director DaRon McGee missing or arriving more than 10 minutes late to 12 of the last 23 meetings (eight absences) and Director Byron Townsend missing or arriving more than ten minutes late to eight of 23 (six absences), according to board attendance records.
Published 0n: 4/5/2021
“Let Us Take It Into Our Own Hands”: Camp 6ixx Demands Support, Not Sweeps
4/1/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Camp 6ixx, which began as a warming site for the houseless community in Westport in January, is facing a sweep threat from the city, who has ordered them to leave by end of day on April 4.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
“When they do the sweeps, where the people go, right?” said Willis, one of the houseless residents of Camp 6ixx, a houseless camp in Westport that started as a warming site in January and has since grown to a small community, with community members working to improve tent structures, start a community garden and coordinate other resources for the houseless community. The camp is named for Scott “Sixx” Eicke, a houseless man who died of exposure on New Year’s Day.
The city has issued notice to both Camp 6ixx and the Kansas City Homeless Union’s occupation of city hall in Kansas City, Missouri to vacate the camps by end of day on Sunday, April 4. The camps are anticipating sweeps in the early hours of Monday morning.
Willis said sweeps threaten the safety and stability of unhoused individuals by taking the resources the houseless community has been able to gain. He said services for houseless individuals needs to include giving people homes—not sweeping camps.
“You know, it's the city officials and people who give Section A government housing need to step up and say, ‘Hey, this, these buildings that are empty, and get these people and reprocess them. They need reconstruction in their lives. Something in their lives failed, hurt them; let's pick them up,’” he said.
Another camp resident, Michael said the city should support what’s already happening onsite at the camp, rather than trying to impose their own guidelines or programs.
“People of Kansas City are pretty much doing everything they can. They're coming by with food, clothes, supplies, and even the people that set this set this up is spending their money to make it better. So the city could just help,” Michael said. “It's not like they don't have the money or the manpower or the resources, why they shouldn't? why they're shutting camps now, with nowhere for people to go--what's the next step after that? Take him to jail for sitting on sitting down somewhere? I mean, it's almost like they're just trying to circulate the money within their own organization.”
“The city (is) just sitting there, and all they're doing is shutting camps down Instead of…opening up opportunities for these camps to better themselves, for people to actually find jobs,” Michael said. “It's kind of hard to do that when you have no internet and no computer, no access to anything, and a lot of these people don't.”
He explained that in addition to resources like internet access, there are many other resources that would help the houseless community that aren’t freely available and improving access should be how the city responds to camps like Camp 6ixx.
“You shouldn't have to get arrested to get drug treatment,” he said. “(The city) should come through and offered stuff like drug treatment. They should come through and offer job resources, you know, (saying) 'We got this, we got this over here, y'all can come by jump on the computer, job hunt.’ But like I said…all the city's worried about is their own pockets.”
Kansas City’s 2021-2022 budget allocates $1.72 million to housing initiatives, with nearly half that funding going to contracts with non-municipal organizations. Houseless leaders at both Camp 6ixx and the Kansas City Homeless Union occupation of city hall have criticized the budget for funding organizations, such as shelters, that often don’t provide permanent solutions to houselessness or housing insecurity.
Joe, another member of the camp, said some businesses have complained about the camp or have cut resources like open WiFi that members of the camp relied on to look for work.
“Subway's always had WiFi…(but) just the last couple of days, they shut it off,” he said. “It's hard to look for a job or anything when you don't have internet or computer that kind of resource.”
Joe explained he is at the camp staying with his mother, who became houseless after leaving an abusive relationship. He said there were no shelters available that would let them stay together. His brother, who became houseless in February, is in the hospital, and Joe said he’s needed to watch his mother’s possessions while she is with his brother.
“It's kind of a messed up situation,” he said. “You know, it's kind of hard when you're in that situation to try to get out of it. Like, I don't, I can't get a job because I don't have a place to live.”
Amanda, an organizer who has been supporting Camp 6ixx, said the need for housing has been a primary demand from the camp, with many residents asking: “There's 10,000 vacant homes in Kansas City; why are we laying our heads on the ground?”
“We want the homes,” she said. “We know how to pick them up. We have contractors here. We have people that have done electrical work, plumbing work, all of that. And so why, why not give us the homes, let us to take it into our own hands? We're doing it here, and we're doing a good job.”
Organizations involved in assisting Camp 6ixx have included Care Beyond the Boulevard, Uplift, Team Jesus, Street Medicine KC, ReStart, Hope Faith Ministries and many community residents who have stopped by with donations or to ask how they can help.
The camp is accepting donations via Venmo and Cashapp ($Camp6ixx) and can be contacted via their Facebook page.
Published 0n: 4/4/2021
“We Are Not Accidentally Homeless; We Are Being Oppressed”: KC Homeless Union Speaks Out Against City Eviction Threat
4/1/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Tiana Caldwell, a leader with KC Tenants, speaks to attendees of Thursday’s rally in support of the Kansas City Homeless Union. The rally was a joint event between KC Tenants and the union. Union leaders, including Qadhafi (right) said the occupation would not end in spite of eviction and arrest threats from the city.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
The Kansas City Homeless Union, which has been occupying the grounds outside City Hall in Kansas City, Missouri since the end of January, was given written notice that they must vacate the camp. Union leaders said they are expecting the sweep to happen early Monday morning, and are asking the community to come support them.
However, the group also said they will not be leaving. Their demands—for homes, jobs, water and a seat at the table—have not been met.
“Y'all keep putting us outside, from under bridges, but y'all not giving us no place to go,” union leader Qadhafi said in a March 23 interview. “We don’t need a damn shelter; we need homes.”
“We don't benefit from people going giving shelters. They shelters benefit. They get money for that. We don't get no money. We still be homeless,” he said. “Shelters is getting approximately $15 million a year…from the city,” he explained. “The private sector is getting them approximately 30 or 45 more million dollars in donations. And with all that money, and only allegedly 2,000 homeless people in Kansas City—that's a multi-million dollar industry…and the people that need it the most is not benefitting.”
The group has requested homes from the land bank as well as funds to pay houseless individuals to renovate those homes. They also demand clean water, and inclusion in conversations about houselessness in Kansas City.
“You got people think that we begging for homes, (but) we simply saying with the same money the city is already spending, and allegedly doing it on our behalf, that we could take that same money and solve the problem,” Qadhafi explained. “A shelter is only in the business of capitalizing off of us being homeless. If we take the same money that's going to shelters, we wouldn't need a shelter.”
“We demand a seat at the table where they make decisions about our lives,” Qadhafi said at a rally on Thursday, April 1. The rally was held in collaboration with KC Tenants in support of the union.
At that rally, Qadhafi explained further the ways in which the city’s response to houselessness has not addressed the problem. He discussed issues ranging from evictions that often side with landlords and lead to houselessness for residents to shelters that refuse to hire houseless people to the lack of water stations or bathroom facilities available for the houseless community, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a right to self-determination,” he said. “We have a right to simply use the bathroom like regular people, not outside like animals.”
Despite various city initiatives, including Mayor Quinton Lucas’ Homelessness Taskforce, Qadhafi said the union’s demands are still not being met.
“Our city officials is not on our side. We are fighting literally for our lives,” he said. “If our city officials were on our side, we wouldn’t have a fight; we would have homes.”
“Every day out here is an act of terror,” he said. “We are not accidentally homeless; we are being oppressed.”
Unhoused leaders share their experiences
Union leader Lulu Livingston also spoke at Thursday’s rally, explaining that she became houseless when she had her identity stolen. She said the police department dismissed her report, and she’s been houseless since.
“I’m tired of being afraid all the time,” she said. “I want a home. I want a job. I want access to clean water. And if I want that, I need a seat at the table.”
Livingston said people often judge the houseless community for trying to survive. For example, she said housed members of the community will see discarded clothes and assume a lack of cleanliness, when in reality, Livingston said there often are no other options.
“When it starts to rain, you panic for just that split second when you realize there’s no safe place to get out of the rain,” she said. When items like clothing6 get wet, she said they’re often too heavy to carry, and she has no option but to discard them.
“From my point of view, I have no choice. From their (housed individuals’) point of view, I’m just a slob,” she said.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (left) talks with Kansas City Homeless Union leader Qadhafi (right) during a tour of the union’s occupation of Kansas City, Missouri City Hall on Thursday, April 1.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
Qadhafi explained that while the occupation is a political strategy aimed at forcing the city to meaningfully address houselessness in Kansas City and do so on the terms of the houseless community, the union has also worked to support its members in other ways.
He said he was recently able to help get shelter for a family with three young children who had been staying at the occupation but needed better shelter.
“I asked them about going to a shelter yesterday and they panicked,” he said. “Because for whatever reason, people don’t want those type of people in they business, because they try to take control of their lives and tell them what, when, where, how or ‘we'll take your kids,’ and people are in fear of going to shelters.”
“People need homes, not people prying into their business for being homeless,” he said. “They don't want their kids took from them, just because they're homeless.”
Other union members also spoke during Thursday’s rally about the sense of community within the union.
“We love each other. That’s how we are a union,” said union member Elijah X, who is also a leader with KC Tenants. “This is more than just a union.”
“This homeless union is a body of people that care,” said Solo, another union member. “I’d like to let the city know we’re not going nowhere. We’re already outside!”
Support for the union
Qadhafi said the union needs the support of the Kansas City community—of residents who can put both their resources and their vote behind the union.
“I’m asking the people that’s here to get our back,” he said at Thursday’s rally.
In addition to asking the community to show up in solidarity early Monday morning (especially before 7 a.m.), the union is also taking donations via their CashApp, $hugyohood. Other donations and support can be coordinated by reaching out through their Facebook page.
Published on: 4/4/2021
KCMO Approves Funding for the Office of the Tenant Advocate
3/25/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Jenay Manley, a leader with KC Tenants speaks at the press conference held ahead of the city council budget approval meeting.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
The Kansas City, Missouri City Council adopts $1.74 billion for the 2021-2022 city budget on March 25. Included in the budget is $931,495 to fund the Office of the Tenant advocate. The proposal to create the position was part of the Tenant Bill of Rights, an initiative led by local activist group KC Tenants. The bill was signed into law in June 2020 and included the creation of the office. The need to adequately fund the office was part of KC Tenants’ continued action and protests over the last nine months.
“This will be a victory for us at KC Tenants and it’s a victory for tenants across the city and not a moment too soon,” said Diane Charity, a leader with KC Tenants, at a press conference held ahead of the council’s approval.
At the press conference held just before the city council meeting, KC Tenants announced their next phase of advocacy for housing rights in Kansas City.
“We dream of a Kansas city where everyone has a home. We dream of a Kansas City where everyone has safe, accessible, truly and permanently affordable homes… I dream of the Kansas City where this mayor and city council passed a housing trust fund policy designed by the people who stand to be the most impacted,” said Jenay Manley, a leader of KC Tenants.
KC Tenants has also proposed the creation of a Housing Trust Fund at the press conference. The fund would have three components: governance, funding and programs that would prioritize long-term affordability, rehabilitative solutions for people with prior evictions and have community control.
“(If) we're going to end homelessness and housing insecurity, we have to think big. If we're going to care for our neighbors in a radical new way we're going to have to be bold. We have to take risks, do things and do things differently if we want different outcomes; and of course we have to approach this type of policymaking with humility,” said Jordan Ayala, a member of KC Tenants while talking about the fund.
KC Tenants will be holding Solidarity Rally with KC Homeless Union on Thursday, April 1 2021 in front of Kansas City, Missouri City Hall with the KC Homeless Union.
More details will be released from KC Tenants in the coming weeks.
Published on: 3/31/2021
Albert Wilson Released on Bond, District Attorneys Look to “Resolve this short of trial"
3/23/2021- Lawrence, Kansas
Jeanette Price of Kansas City, MO holds a sign outside the Douglas County Courthouse on November 3, 2020, at a hearing asking for a retrial.
Photo by Brynn Fitzsimmons
Albert Wilson was released from Douglas County Jail on March 23, following a hearing held by Judge Sally Pokorny in Lawrence, Kansas. He was greeted by friends and family following his release.
Wilson, now 24, was accused of rape in 2016 after meeting the 17-year-old at the Hawk, a bar near the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. He was initially convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to over 12 years in prison. The Free Albert Wilson campaign has advocated for his release on the grounds of lack of evidence, a point that was also raised during the hearing arguing for re-trial in November 2020.
During the hearing Michael Whalen, Wilson’s defence attorney requested bail conditions be the same as before his first trial with bail set at $75,000 and no GPS monitoring. The judge allowed the request while agreeing that Wilson was not a flight risk.
Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez, who is new to this case, had no objections to the decision and added that the DA’s office will be “diligent and careful.”
“We (will) attempt to resolve this short of trial,” said Valdez.
When Pokorny was considering the next hearing date, Whalen asked for enough time to meet and continue what he called “productive conversations” with Valdez.
“I think since we are attempting to resolve this in good faith if we could have 45 days, that would be better for us,” said Valdez.
Pokorny scheduled the new pretrial hearing to take place on May 13, 2021 at 3 p.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
Published on: 3/24/2021
Hickman Mills School Board Candidates Speak at Forum
3/21/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
The five Hickman Mills School Board (Kansas City, Missouri) candidates spoke at an online forum on Thursday, March 11. The event was hosted by the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization that encourages voting participation and advocacy around various social issues. The forum asked candidates their opinions on accreditation, school closures, summer school and helping the district navigate the effects of COVID-19.
The candidates also discussed concerns about the sufficiency of Cerner’s level of support for the district, Missouri Senate Bill 55 and state support of the school.
Their responses are summarized below, and there will be another forum from the NAACP Kansas City, Missouri Branch on Monday, March 22.
Ann Coleman, a longtime resident of the district, holds degrees in both education and special education and said she hoped to bring that expertise and experience to the board. She has both a grandson and a nephew who are students in the district.
“I have a vested interest in this area,” she said. “I think that I have a lot to offer by being on the board.”
She said full accreditation is a priority for her, but that competitive salaries for teachers and additional programs to catch students up after a year of virtual learning will be crucial to that effort.
“A lot of our students have fallen behind because of the virtual education that they’ve had to get because of COVID…so I think we need to have some fierce tutoring offered to the students. We need to get the parents on board with that,” she said.
She also suggested programs that would help parents better support their students, citing an evening program she used to work with that met once a week for parents of district students. “Before we knew it, we had a whole cafeteria full of parents and students,” she said of the program.
She said she felt in-person summer school would also be beneficial, both for academic purposes and to allow students to be with their friends.
“I think the children would welcome it; I know the parents would welcome it,” she said.
Coleman opposed both school closures and efforts to expand school choice/voucher programs and charter schools, such as SB 55. She encouraged residents to reach out to their representatives to oppose state legislation that would threaten school funding.
She also said businesses in the district—especially large corporations like Cerner—needed to support both the community and the district. “When the community thrives, the school district thrives,” she said.
She said more support from Cerner could take many forms, including partnering with the district to provide mentoring and tutoring to students. “I have several friends that work over there, and I ask them, ‘Would you support being mentors to our students? Would you support being tutors to our students?’ And most of them said yes.”
“I think there’s a little bit more that they can do, but I do think they have helped,” she said of Cerner.
Incumbent Carol Graves has 20 years of classroom teaching experience and has served on the board for the last six years.
“My model has been putting kids first, and I have not wavered,” she said. “I want to see Hickman Mills move up. I want to see the culture change.”
For Graves, a key focus of her next term would be changing school culture. “We have got to change the culture of our school,” she said. Doing so would help teachers feel more supported. “We’ve all had jobs that didn’t pay a lot of money, but we enjoyed them…Our teachers need to know that we appreciate them and that we are working behind the scenes to make sure that we give them the money that they deserve.”
She said she hopes to avoid further school closures in the district, especially after having been part of a school closure as a teacher. “It’s not an experience that we want to have or continue to have…but that’s what happens in education and in life,” she said.
She said she hopes increasing parental involvement will help student performance, especially as students try to catch up after the challenges COVID-19 created for many students. “Parent involvement would help, but how many of our parents really want to get involved with our kids?” she said. She also noted that things like an expanded summer school that also incorporated fun activities could help engage students and help them catch up.
Graves also pushed back against efforts to expand school choice, including Missouri Senate Bill 55 and other measures that may decrease school funding and pull students from the district.
“The best and the brightest would leave Hickman Mills (under school choice)…and so what you would have would be those that are just there,” she said. “We have to have students on all levels.”
She also questioned Cerner’s support of the district and said the district would need to consider future tax increment financing (TIF) arrangements carefully.
“If a business wants to get a TIF in our area, the Hickman Mills School District is going to make sure that we have a seat at the table,” she said. “They do support us in a way, and of course we would like more support from them, but we’re going to take what they’re giving us.”
Ebony Osby has experience working in the district and specific experience working with those with special needs. She is also a parent of three Hickman Mills students. “I’m a mom first, and that’s not just to my children. It’s to all children in this district,” she said.
Osby said some of her top issues as a candidate are accreditation, parent involvement and teacher salary. “This school district…has the culture in it, we just need to bring it out. It has the heart of the community in it; we just need to bring it out,” she said.
She sees better support of teachers—including financially—as important in helping the school move toward full accreditation. Accreditation, in turn, would help parents take the district more seriously and increase involvement.
“We do need to look at the data to figure out what areas we lag in,” she said. “But I also think this needs to be done in a fashion that doesn’t overwhelm the students or the teachers.”
Osby also said that while she opposes closing school buildings, she is also concerned about what happens to buildings that do close. “If a school does become closed, what are we doing with that building that can actually benefit the district?” she asked.
She also emphasized strategies for helping students catch up, like offering tutoring or other supplemental programs, but said programs like longer summer school would just burn out students and teachers. “If we take that (normal length summer break) away from them, then we have created an inconsistent schedule that these kids are not used to,” she said.
She also opposed SB 55 and school choice/voucher program expansion that would pull funding and students away from the district. “It doesn’t add any value to the school district,” she said.
The question of adding value to the district was one she posed for Cerner as well. “How has Cerner given back to the school district?” she asked. “I don’t feel like that has done a lot to help our kids. I feel like there is so much more that they can do.”
She said while support doesn’t have to be financial and could be through other programs, ranging from volunteering to mentorship or tutoring programs to internships for district students, businesses in the district—including Cerner—needed to meaningfully support the district.
Ron Pearson holds a degree in organizational leadership, served 21 years in the United States Army, has written and enforced policy for the Department of Defense and is seeking his first term on the school board.
“I have a heart for people,” he said, and noted both his children and his grandchildren have or are attending school in the district. “It would give me an opportunity to give something back.”
Pearson said he would bring his policy and organizational background to a board position, working for performance improvement plans, strategic partnerships with community members and focused progress toward accreditation.
“Competence is my watchword, and you can hold me accountable for that,” he said. “I do not plan to divide, but I plan to stand on my principles.”
He opposed both the expansion of school choice/voucher programs and closing schools. However, he also said that in the event of necessary closures, the board should ensure the buildings are repurposed to “we rebuild our blighted community.”
Pearson also proposed increasing community involvement to help support students. “I believe we can use community involvement and create programs,” he said. “We focus on parents; however, the parents are working…I do believe that if we look at the community…and we use them as force multipliers, we take some of the load off of those teachers.”
“These are some creative and innovative ways that we may use to catch up in some of the areas that we lost,” he said, noting successful community programs elsewhere, such as teacher pods. He also supported expanded summer school in a hybrid format and with “emotional supports” and trips for students.
While he emphasized community involvement, Pearson was critical of the current agreement with Cerner, both because of lack of benefit to the district and because of what he called a lack of transparency.
“As a member of the board of education, I would think that it would be critically important to re-establish our commitment (to transparency),” he said. “I do believe that we should go back and renegotiate (with Cerner)—in a nice way…so that we can both have some measure of amicability.”
He emphasized accountability as a key board member focus as well. “Accountability looks like being your word and understanding your position,” he said. “We have one employee. That employee is the superintendent. It is our job to support that superintendent.”
Clifford Ragan III
Clifford Ragan III has served as the vice president of the school board and a board member and is a father of four past and current students of the district. He cited involvement in a variety of community programs ranging from Harvesters to the PTA to the Booster Club. He said he hopes to help the district pursue accreditation and a stronger sense of school spirit.
“For a long length of time, the Hickman Mills School District has had no identity (and) spirit,” he said. He said the path to accreditation would require, “all hands on deck. That’s from the teacher to the parent to the counselors.”
Ragan said he was against school closures and would prefer to make cuts “at the top” instead. He criticized district decisions to hire during the pandemic when students were not physically in school. “That to me is looking at money you could have saved,” he said.
In addition to pushing parent involvement, Ragan also proposed tutoring and possible testing for students catching up after a year of virtual learning.
“I believe you’re going to have to tutor these kids,” he said. “We might have to bring in parents to also get a grip on everything also, but also we might need to test the student to see how much the student has lacked.”
Ragan is also against legislation like SB 55 and said the state should instead provide better resources to the district to be able to pursue accreditation and avoid state takeover. “Give us the tools and resources to get us up to standard. Then nobody goes anywhere,” he said.
Ragan was also opposed to a longer in-person summer school, citing the need for students to have a break. “Everybody needs a break. That’s why we all work: so we can have a vacation,” he said.
Ragan also stressed the need for more accountability and a stronger district negotiation stance when discussing TIF agreements, such as with Cerner. “They’ve given us some spare change,” he said.
He said the district should consider its other resources—such as district-owned land—and how to best leverage those assets and work with the community.
“We need to tighten up,” he said.
Ragan said his knowledge of the district makes him a strong candidate. “I was a parent first,” he said of his last term on the board. “I’m very knowledgeable. I’m here for not only the teachers (and) the students, but I’m here for the parents also.”
Published on: 3/21/2021
Albert Wilson Granted Retrial
3/16/2021- Lawrence, Kansas
Supporters of Albert Wilson gather outside the Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence, Kansas during Wilson's hearing on November 3, 2020, in which his attorney requested a retrial.
Photo by Brynn Fitzsimmons
On Tuesday, March 16, a Douglas County District Court Judge in Lawrence, Kansas ordered a retrial for Albert Wilson. The decision comes after Wilson’s attorney appeared before the same court to argue for retrial in November. Wilson, a Black man who is now 24, was convicted on one count of rape by an all-white jury in 2019, after he was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl he met at the Hawk, a bar near the University of Kansas campus, in 2016.
Wilson and his family and friends have consistently asserted his innocence, launching the Free Albert Wilson campaign, which offers a detailed timeline and other information about the case and seeks to engage the public.
Wilson’s attorney, Michael Whalen, alongside Josh Dubin of the Innocence Project, presented evidence in the hearing last fall that challenged whether Wilson’s original attorney, Forrest Lowry, had adequately considered all relevant evidence in Wilson’s case. Issues listed in the hearing included: an overstep of expert testimony in the initial trial, a failure of the alleged victim and her mother to report relevant information regarding personal and medical history, a failure to utilize sufficient expertise regarding rape kit results, and a failure to use all available surveillance footage to verify witness testimony.
A hearing on Tuesday, March 23 at 1:30 p.m. will set the date for the retrial.
Published on: 3/16/2021
Founder of Scott Eicke Warming Center Discusses Houselessness, Future Directions
3/13/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
The Scott Eicke Warming Center at Bartle Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
Photo by Anna Stelmach
In just a few days, the Scott Eicke Warming Center at Bartle Hall, Kansas City, Missouri will either have to move locations or shut down. The warming center is named for Scott “Sixx” Eicke, who died of hypothermia on New Year’s Day.
The city, which has allowed Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs (CIE) and a number of other volunteers and community groups to operate the warming center out of Bartle Hall, has only agreed to the partnership through March 17.
Anton Washington, director and founder of CIE as well as the warming center, said that with the deadline quickly approaching, he’s searching for options to continue offering services to the houseless community.
“I speak with the houseless community…and they say that they want housing, jobs, clothing. They want food and places to lay their heads, and they need medical attention,” he said. He said he envisions a version of the warming center that functions for the next three to five years, serving as a clearinghouse for connecting people to wraparound services.
Similar measures—wraparound services that bring together a wide variety of community organizations and programs to address the multifaceted factors that create barriers to getting and keeping housing—have proven hugely successful in nearby communities like Kansas City, Kansas, which halved the number of students experiencing houselessness in just four years through Impact KCK.
“This is about being able to get these individuals…the proper care that they need,” Washington said.
Washington said the warming center started after he participated in a meeting in which a leader from Free Hot Soup, a group that hosts picnics and offers resources to those experiencing houselessness throughout the metro, asked where she was supposed to send people who were sleeping in tents during record-breaking cold temperatures in January.
Washington said there wasn’t a clear answer from the city. “That’s when I got on the phone,” he said. “I stayed on them because I was sick and tired of seeing people die.”
“We can’t just say we don’t know, because KC is a very, very big city…at the end of the day, we have Kansas Citians that are not even accounted for,” he said. “I’m not going to sit back and stand by and let these things happen when I have a voice.”
Most recently, efforts to connect people to resources has included a partnership with Downtown Community Improvement District and Downtown KC. Washington said the partnership allowed them access to liability insurance and other resources to be able to remain at Bartle Hall, which he saw as the most effective way to “make sure that we are connected with service providers that can give these individuals the proper care that they need.”
“I needed an entity that had a contract with the city,” he said of the partnership. “When they connected, CIE partnered with them just because of the fact of liability insurance.”
Washington’s GoFundMe for the center has raised over $23,000—money he just got access to on February 25. He said that while the center will continue to take donations to try to conserve their funds as much as possible, he plans to allocate those funds to serve the houseless community however he can.
“That money does not belong to me. That money belongs to the people who are houseless,” he said. “If they say they need water, the whole entire back end of Bartle Hall will be filled with water.”
He said he sees this way of allocating funds as crucially different from how the city—which allocated $8.5 million last year for services to those experiencing houselessness—allocates funds.
“Where’s (that money) at? It ain’t going to the houseless community, because if it did, this wouldn’t be happening right now,” Washington said.
Washington explained solutions can’t stop with the warming center, however. He said he hopes to connect with groups like the KC Homeless Union, which has been occupying outside City Hall for over a month, demanding $5.8 million in funding in the form of houses from the land bank, resources to pay houseless individuals to restore those houses, and water service to those houses. He also praised groups like KC Tenants and the activists and community members involved in the LGBTQ+ Commission for work they are doing for tenant and housing rights.
Washington also said eradicating houselessness will also mean eradicating the criminalization of houselessness and the over-policing of Black communities.
“We want to help decriminalize the basis of what’s going on in our communities,” he said. “We don’t need law enforcement to govern our communities. We do not. We have to rise above and take care of our own.”
Instead of putting $261.02 million toward police for FY 2021-2022, Washington said he wants investment in communities. He questioned funding for expenses like body cameras as well, saying those dollars would be better spent on the community.
“If they would act right, we wouldn’t need body cameras,” he said. “If they are properly trained with the mentality of going into a situation, then a body camera is not needed because then they’ll know how to deescalate a situation without having to pull their gun.”
“That funding that went into KCPD…could very well have went back into our community,” he said.
Published on: 3/13/2021
Kansas City Homeless Union Holds Rally, Demands Homes Not Shelters
3/7/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Qadhafi, leader of KC Homeless Union speaks at the Kansas City Homeless Solidarity Rally in front of the Kansas City, Missouri City Hall on March 7.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
The Kansas City Homeless Union invited the public to a rally Sunday, March 7, outside Kansas City Missouri City Hall, where the union has been occupying since January 31. Their occupation, which has run 37 days so far, is slated to continue until the city meets their demands.
“We here as a tactic to make them hear us,” said Qadhafi, the leader of the union. “The union is our voice.”
In a proposal released via Facebook and presented at the city’s recent budget hearings, the union demanded around $5.8 million in funding to go toward buying vacant, city-owned homes from the land bank, paying houseless individuals to convert those homes into livable residences, and supply water to unhoused individuals via water stations throughout the city. The union is also demanding they be included in city discussions around houselessness.
“The City should convert vacant and City-owned properties into permanent homes for those who are unhoused. The Land Bank has dedicated funds for repurposing vacant, abandoned, and blighted properties into productive use for the improvement of the Kansas City Community,” their demands document explains. The document requests $2.3 million from the land bank funding to provide homes, $1.7 million toward homeless initiatives to support transition into those houses, $1.7 million in contract labor to employ unhoused individuals to renovate the homes, and $65,000 to provide water.
“The City dedicates money to car washes for police vehicles, which would pay for at least one free water station or yearly maintenance,” the document states.
Community expresses support for union
A number of other groups have expressed support for the union’s demands, both during the rally and as part of the budget hearings. Groups such as KC Tenants, GYRL, KC Mutual Aid, and Kansas City Food Not Bombs raised funds, donated supplies and services and showed support at Sunday’s event.
Many groups have been vocal in their support of the union during city budget hearings as well. Christina Ostmeyer, a leader with KC Tenants, tied KC Tenants’ demands to fund the office of tenant advocate to the demands of the union in her testimony during a budget hearing on Tuesday, March 2, “I participated in the budget process last year, and I've participated this year,” she said. “And time and time again, I see the same people here not getting for what they've asked for, and what they've asked for, because they want it but because they need it, we need an office of the tenant advocate that's fully funded at $1.2 million. We need for the city to recognize the Kansas City homeless Union's demands, and not put band aids over the problem to actually fund prevention services and homes for those who are experiencing homelessness.”
Union demands homes, budget changes
Members of the Kansas City Homeless Union testified before city officials at the recent public budget hearings, discussing their demands as well as their plans to address houselessness in a way that better serves their community.
One member, Casper, said this at the hearing on March 2: “Everybody wants to tell their story. Basically mine is I’ve been hitchhiking and riding freight trains across the country for the past ten years, and I’ve learned a lot. Using the knowledge that I have and using access to the resources that I’ve been able to find, I was able to gain a foothold in the Kansas City Homeless Union. So with the skills that I already have in the construction business, I’d like to restore any properties secured by the union so that homeless people can live a property lifestyle.”
He went on to detail union demands for funding and explained how that funding would be used to provide permanent solutions by renovating vacant properties the city already owns, a tactic that has been used in other cities as well.
“The Kansas City Homeless Union has a list of demands,” Casper explained. “First of all, we want homes. Where is this going to come from? It’s going to come from the land bank…The city is spending millions on shelters and services. You know, Bartle Hall is going to close in two weeks. What are all those people gonna do? Where are they gonna go? They're gonna come here with us. No, they're gonna be out on the streets, doing whatever it is they have to do to survive. We shouldn't have to survive. We want to thrive.”
Casper stressed that thriving means permanent housing, not just shelters. “Kansas City spends tons of money on maintenance, for contract labor,” he said. “They could allocate $1.7 million and give everybody a t-shirt and a pair of black pants and, you know, work them for a week at $10 an hour or whatever the minimum wage is. Half of these people out here would be grateful to work to have an opportunity to prove themselves and speak for themselves.”
“It's our city,” he said. “And we want it back.”
A seat at the table
One of the union’s demands is for “a seat at the table,” something Qadhafi and other members have been vocal about both at Sunday’s event and at budget hearings and other interactions with public officials.
“Everybody (that’s) got any mission, taskforce, board that's not including the homeless union but continues to claim they speaking for the homeless people need to get right,” Qadhafi said at the March 2 budget hearing. “Because the homeless people have a voice. It's called the union….We got a voice and we coming. Our vote will count. We will not be insignificant no more.”
While Qadhafi and other union leaders have repeatedly stated that others need to stop speaking for the houseless and instead allow the union and members of the houseless community their own seat at the table, Qadhafi also said at Sunday’s rally that Kansas City needed to pay attention.
“It’s the people’s fault for allowing this,” he said of houselessness in Kansas City. “And I’m not looking for everybody to get involved, but I’m looking for some people to get mad as hell, mad enough to stand up and do something about it. I’m looking for people that’s...mad enough to get involved and do something about it.”
“I’m hear to make the whole damn city uncomfortable,” he said. “From now on, when I see homeless people, I be thanking them for their service, you know, because everyone’s walking on their backs, and they’re some of the strongest people that I know.”
“I’m asking the people to continue to get our back,” he said. “This is an historic event in other places,” he said of the occupation. “Kansas City, we need a historic response.”
“The people upstairs will bow down to our will,” he said, gesturing behind him toward City Hall. “The people have the power to make change.”
The Kansas City Homeless Union can be reached via Facebook, and are accepting cash donations exclusively through their CashApp, $hugyohood.
Published on: 3/13/2021
The Demand for Justice for Donnie Sanders Continues Despite No Charges Filed in Police Shooting from Jackson County Prosecutor
3/6/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
Youlanda Sanders (left) and Reshonda Sanders (right) speak about their brother at the Justice for Donnie Sanders march in Kansas City, Missouri on March 6.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
The family of Donnie Sanders is demanding a full release of evidence surrounding Kansas City Police Officer Blayne Newton’s killing of Sanders on March 12, 2020. The family’s demands were read publicly by Anton Washington at a march and rally for Sanders that began at Arno Park, Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday. The march continued to the home of Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, where protesters demanded that Baker release a complete copy of the KCPD investigation report of the incident and release a complete copy of all material and evidence reviewed by the prosecutor used in her determination to not file charges.
“If this was your son or your brother, how would you react?” said Youlanda Sanders, sister of Donnie Sanders. “This hurts. All we asked for is justice for my brother. He didn't deserve to die. Not for no traffic stop. You know how this makes us feel? We hurt.”
The protest was in response to the decision announced Monday, March 1 not to charge the officer, Blayne Newton, with Sanders’s death. In the decision’s accompanying statement, Peters Baker’s justification for the decision was that “the evidence collected is insufficient to support charges against the officer. The officer told investigators that Sanders held up his hand toward him "as if he's got a gun."”
KCPD detain a protester at the march for Donnie Sanders in Kansas City, Missouri on March 6, 2021
Photo by Andrei Stoica
One protester detained at march
Following the demonstration and the reading of demands the group headed back to Arno park. During the march back one person was detained by KCPD police when a car turned into a group of protesters crossing Ward Parkway and struck a protester at low speed. The protester can be seen tapping on the car's hood in response. The person was taken into custody at the Shoal Creek patrol station in Kansas City, Missouri. They were released later that evening. One witness at the scene said: “This driver ran right into this young man, which freaked the young man out and he banged the hood. Within three minutes the place was crawling with police. They grabbed the young man, and arrested him. They handcuffed him and arrested him and we're all talking to the police. And we're saying: arrest the driver, because he ran into that young man. They ignored us, you know they have their orders about how to deal with the public in these situations, and they let, they let it go. They let the driver go, but we have license plates. And we're going to be contacting police and witnesses, I was standing right there when it happened”
Donnie Sanders investigation
Sanders was killed by Newton on March 12, 2020 in Kansas City Missouri. The unarmed 47 year old Sanders was shot multiple times. He died from his wounds the next day. The Missouri Highway Patrol was asked to investigate on October 13, 2020 as an outside agency. The request was made by the Jackson County prosecutor's office after receiving the completed KCPD report. “We’ve made clear, whenever we needed to, that the police department shouldn’t investigate itself, especially in fatal officer-involved shootings,” Michael Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor office said in October. “So when they submitted this case to us, we immediately asked highway patrol to look at this investigation and review it.”
At a March 1, 2021 press conference, the family asked to see the detailed report and for justice for Donnie Sanders. “I want Newton charged.” said Mark Sanders, Donnie’s uncle. When asked if he thinks he will see this happen, Sanders said, “Probably won’t. Same thing over and over.”
The Jackson County prosecutor’s office is holding a virtual public forum today at 6 pm local time about use of force incidents involving the Kansas City, Missouri police department and their investigations.
Published on: 3/9/2021
Most KCMO City Departments Will Take 11 Percent Budget Cut; KCPD to Cut 4.3 Percent
2/16/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
KCMO Board of Police Commissioners at the February 2021 meeting.
Photo by Andrei Stoica
According to the most recent Board of Police Commissioners Meeting, the Kansas City Missouri Police Department is now projected to take a 4.3 percent budget cut rather than the proposed 11 percent cut to all city departments in light of COVID-19-related financial concerns. The proposed budget sits at $261.02 million, down from the current fiscal year’s $272.83 million. Other departments show steeper percentage cuts, such as Parks and Recreation going from $70.17 million to a proposed $59.24 million and Public Works going from $144.44 million to a proposed $130.41 million.
This will be KCPD’s first budget cut since 2013, when it took an approximately $6 million cut (2.76 percent). The department’s budget has increased by an average of $9.26 million every year since.
However, Commissioner Nathan Garrett of Graves Garrett LLC said he is still concerned about cuts to the police department budget.
“Let this moment of defund the police have no traction here,” he said in his closing remarks at Tuesday’s meeting. “There is no place for that here. It is utter nonsense. I will continue to advocate for this police department. I will continue to be vocal about the risks that I believe are associated with increased attrition, and our failure to supply.”
He said that while he recognized that the city council and the mayor have to consider budget cut impacts across multiple departments, his job as a commissioner is solely to advocate for the police department.
Garrett asserted that, if anything, rising homicides and other public safety concerns call for more police.
“I'm sure that universities are studying and those test tubes about how we can do more with less, and how what these afflicted communities need is less police not more police,” he said. “But I say bullshit. That's when I say. The fact is we need police officers on these streets.”
Garrett also pointed out the homicide rate for Kansas City, with 19 homicides in January, compared to 21 in January 2020 and 19 in January 2019.
While Deputy Chief Mark Francisco said in his investigative bureau report that the lower homicide rate and higher homicide clearance rate (73 percent for 2020, up from 55 percent in 2019) could be credited to a number of factors, Garrett emphasized more police as the ongoing solution to the current homicide rate—and speculated that Black residents of Kansas City would agree with him.
“Unfortunately, right now, with our homicides here today, in the month of January, we've got about 82 percent African Americans. 82 percent of homicides in one month. It's not my neighborhood, right? Not mine. Police haven't been called to my house since I've lived there 15 years. You know, it's in these areas of town that carry greater risk, those are the ones who are getting most affected by this. If you were to poll them, I suspect law enforcement, support for our police would be pretty damn high. That's what I think. I think it'd be pretty high. They don't up, show up hold signs in their hands, and they don't have bullhorns, but they support the men and women of this department.”
Activists like Steve Young, one of the leaders of the weekly protest outside KCPD headquarters on Friday nights, disagree.
“The Black and brown communities are so tired of being terrorized by Kansas City Police, and not one of you being held accountable. There is no leadership in that building,” he said at the February 5 protest.
Kansas City’s 2019-2020 Citizen Survey data also shows overall satisfaction with KCPD falling consistently since 2014 (vi).
Garrett said residents have told him they’re afraid to express support for the police department. Reverend Darron Edwards expressed similar concerns about public sentiment toward police, noting that Getting to the Heart of the Matter is working to raise funding and expand programming in light of “the vitriolic remarks that were shared, said to our men and women in blue, who stood during the protests on the plaza, knowing that we are facing in a couple of weeks, the beginning of the trial with George Floyd and perhaps similar outcomes from that trial.”
Only one member of the community, Morgan Rainey, offered public comment. He expressed support for police and for Chief Rick Smith, noting that his sister is an officer and that he admired her work.
“I want people to be thrilled to become police officers like my sister,” he said. Rainey also stated his concern about cuts to the budget.
Draft policy for body cams would not require recording during protests
Commissioner and Treasurer Cathy Dean and Mayor Quinton Lucas pushed back on first readings of two draft policies (Project #1322 and 1323) regarding the use of body-worn cameras, which the department is rolling out to officers. Initial drafts indicate that non-evidentiary video will be stored for 180 days—a limit Acting Deputy Chief Greg Dull said is largely due to cost constraints for storage.
Draft policies also listed exemptions for officers turning on body-worn cameras, which Lucas and Dean expressed concerns about. The exemptions included not recording first-amendment protected activities, including protests.
“That sounds to me like you've got a bunch of people about a protest, and none of the officers are using their body cameras,” Dean said. Lucas agreed, emphasizing that all official police contact should be recorded, and that policy wording should clearly set that expectation.
Smith said the draft wording was at the U.S. Department of Justice’s recommendation, and that the department would adjust wording in the next draft of the policy to come before the board.
Published on 2/23/2021
KC Tenants Demands Full Funding For The Office Of The Tenant Advocate
2/21/2021- Kansas City, Missouri
This morning, over 35 KC Tenants leaders and allies testified in the City’s first public hearing this season, demanding $1.2 million for the Office of the Tenant Advocate and in solidarity with the KC Homeless Union.
The City’s proposed budget allocates just $111,495 to fund the Office of the Tenant Advocate, a 66% cut from last year’s already-inadequate $327,764. The proposed allocation would mean the City spends just 38 cents per Kansas City tenant on critical rights enforcement. For every $1 for tenants, the City proposes a whopping $2,340 for police.
In 2019, KC Tenants drafted and won a Tenants Bill of Rights in December 2019. The Tenants Bill of Rights became City law in June 2020. The City failed to hire advocates until October 2020. The City has failed to create a website with information on tenants rights. The City has failed to translate rights materials to ensure that every tenant can access them.
While tenants make up half of Kansas City’s residents, the City’s budget proposal does not reflect our needs. This year, in the midst of a pandemic and corresponding economic crisis, tenants need our rights enforced more than ever. KC Tenants proposed a fully funded Office of the Tenant Advocate. Read our budget proposal here.
Today, more Kansas Citians than ever before live on the streets, in motels, or out of their cars. People experiencing homelessness have unionized as of last month. The KC Homeless Union is organizing an ongoing encampment outside of City Hall, issuing demands for homes, water, and a seat at the table. Read the Homeless Union’s demands