"You Can't Go Back to Sleep": Activists Tell KCMO to Stay Involved

Brynn Laurel

11/13/2020- Kansas City, Missouri

Memorial with the names of victims of police violence in front of Kansas City, Missouri police headquarters

Photo by Andrei Stoica

Twenty-three weeks later, activists are still showing up on Friday nights to remember local victims of police brutality. Despite cold weather, a small group gathered at 6 p.m. outside Kansas City Police Headquarters at 1125 Locust, KCMO. The group set up their regular memorial--including flowers, candles, and boards with the names and photos of local victims--near one of the police department monuments.

"I don't just think about these people on Friday nights," said Ky Williams of White Rose Society. "I think about them every time I'm leaving the house and I see that a cop slows down in the car behind me. I think about it when I turn on the news, and I'm afraid to look because I don't know if I'm going to see another lynching. I think about it when I go out and I see Blue Lives Matter Lucas standing in solidarity next to the cop that had his hand around my neck six months ago."

"I show up because someone didn't show up today," activist Rachel Hudson told the group. "Every time I have to come and see this, it's like coming to a funeral all over again."

"Society has forgotten them," Williams added. "Our leadership didn't want them to think about it at all...We have to keep showing up. Because if we were on this board, I know in my heart, there's not a single name on here that wouldn't show up for me."

Activists Criticize City Officials, Mayor

Activists also criticized city officials, including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. "I am so sick of (Mayor Lucas) coming in and playing and being this moderate," said Hudson, citing Lucas’ appearance at a Biden/Harris rally last week. "I don't know why you (Lucas) have lost the plot, but you need to get it together really fast."

They also criticized lack of mask use among KCPD officers, a topic which was a central concern of citizens at the most recent Board of Police Commissioners meeting as well. Of the three KCPD officers who interacted with protesters regarding the placement of the Black Lives Matter flag at the event, two did not wear masks.

"Protesting and standing against corruption in our city leadership did not stop on November 3. It's not over," Williams said. "This is local, y'all, it's right here and it's got to stop...We cannot wait for another lynching."

Activist Sheryl Ferguson of It's Time 4 Justice called attention to police contract policies, explaining that the contracts negotiated by the Kansas City Fraternal Order of the Police allow police brutality to continue.

"We need to understand how the governance works, and we need to work on tearing down the governance structure," she said. "There's never an opportunity for you to be quiet if you give a damn."

Ryan Sorrell of Black Rainbow also called for sustained involvement at the grassroots level. "Top-down liberation is impossible. It's a fallacy," he said. "It only takes three percent of the population to start a revolution."

Speakers Emphasize Interpersonal Advocacy

Williams also stressed the need to not just show up to protests, however. "It's easy to stand up against white supremacists, that are throwing eggs at us, that are passing us on the street or flipping us off," she said. "But the real revolution happens when you face the people in your life that you don't want to face. I lost a lot of friends this year, because I started speaking up. I don't want those friends."

"The problem with waking up to the issues and the corruption and white supremacy is that you can't go back to sleep...But I need you to make the decision now,” she said. “If you're scared that you don't have family, look around. Look around. We are what we have. We will pick you up. We will be there for you. Because I'm not going to wait for your name to be up here to show up for you."

The Friday night protest will continue this Friday, November 20, at 6 p.m.

Published on: 11/19/2020