Update, 12 a.m. Saturday
The protest that began Friday afternoon at the J.C. Nichols Fountain in the Country Club Plaza lasted several hours, and despite some tense moments, the event remained peaceful.
At the height of the protest, several hundred participants lined the streets. Many dispersed by the official end time at 6 p.m., but about half remained well past that time and ventured off the sidewalk into the middle of the street. When asked to return to the sidewalk, a handful of protesters instead sat, where they were, on the pavement. Several streets near the intersection of J.C. Nichols Parkway and Emmanuel Cleaver II Boulevard were closed, and remained that way for hours.
As evening wore on, and honking horns of motorists no longer buoyed spirits, interactions between protesters and police officers became more fraught. Police officers began to line up closer to protesters, and protesters' chants turned to shouts, some delivered close to officers' faces.
By about 8 p.m., an estimated 150 protesters and 75 police officers remained at the intersection.
Later in the night, police equipped with gas masks and riot helmets arrived. Capt. Dave Jackson, a spokesman for the Kansas City police department, said officers planned to stay at the scene “as long as it takes to maintain peace.”
At 9 p.m., Jackson reported zero arrests. He was unaware of injuries to protesters, and said that despite some bottles of water thrown at officers, no officers had been injured, either.
Jessica Routh brought her two pre-teen sons to the protest. "We're standing up for Black Lives Matter because we're a multiracial family," she said. "We're black, Mexican, Indian, Italian and Irish."
Routh was impressed by the turnout, and the overall peacefulness of events, as of early evening.
By 10 p.m. the remaining crowd left the intersection and began walking the neighborhood, with many chanting “our streets.” Those still protesting marched from the Plaza to Westport, and, according to Jackson, lifted a traffic barricade and began to carry it. The police responded with pepper spray, Jackson said.
Protesters reportedly marched peacefully back to the J.C. Nichols Fountain before midnight.
4 p.m. Friday
A couple hundred people turned out for a peaceful protest in Midtown Kansas City on Friday, the first of what was expected to be a weekend of such events triggered by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this week.
Holding signs that mirrored some of Floyd's last words as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck — "I can't breathe!" — protesters said they wanted everyone to know that such violence happens everywhere. The crowd chanted, “No justice, no peace! Prosecute the police!”
“Racism is not new, it’s just now being seen," said 28-year-old Jaron Greathouse."We’re out here protesting peacefully letting the world know change needs to happen. All around the world and not just in Kansas City.”
Protestors wore masks but didn't seem to socially distance at the social justice event, lining the streets near the J.C. Nichols Fountain near the Country Club Plaza and waving at passing motorists.
Ronald McMillan, a self-described community activist, said he felt compelled to come out and protest Floyd’s death because "it's an injustice across the line."
"It’s the wrong thing to do," he said. "And it’s not even June. We about to get ready for a real hot summer.”
As events rippled across the country after Floyd's death, social media in Kansas City grew increasingly active Friday with people who wanted to express anger, fear, grief, sadness and solidarity.
An event posted on Facebook Thursday night, dubbed “Black Lives Matter. Enough is Enough,” grew from 50 people to more than 3,200 saying they were interested and 857 attending. The event, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the J.C. Nichols Fountain, was organized by Lindsey Aquino, Justice Gatson and Justice Horn.
Horn, the former University of Missouri-Kansas City student body president, said they are focused on keeping people safe and keeping the protest peaceful, so they are barring weapons, fighting or physical contact with anyone.
“We do not want to protest an event where people got hurt and then people get hurt at another event,” he said. “That’s an absolute nightmare. That’s not what we want at all.”
The event is also not about “hating on the cops,” Horn said.
“We’re protesting the injustices against our community,” he said.
Keji Akinmoladun, a 2019 graduate of Northwest Missouri State, was organizing a Saturday event on Twitter, also scheduled to be held on the Plaza. She said she wanted to focus on the African Americans who were killed by Kansas City Police officers, including 26-year-old Cameron Lamb, 47-year-old Donnie Sanders, and 24-year-old Ryan Stokes.
“There’s also injustices in Kansas City,” she said. “There’s not as much (police violence) in Kansas City, but it’s still a big deal. It happened.”
Mayor Quinton Lucas, who earlier Friday said the news from Minneapolis had kept him up this week, announced on Twitter that he has spoken with Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and the city is ready for any peaceful demonstration.
KCPD tweeted out its policy on protests.
“All in Kansas City have a right to be heard,” Lucas tweeted.
Horn acknowledged that organizing a public protest during a pandemic can be “odd.”
His group called for using masks and was planning to draw a grid with six-foot intervals in hopes of people staying far apart.
“We are really, really going to start off and make sure people are socially distancing so we’re probably going to take up a lot of space doing that,” he said.