KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Council could get rid of municipal charges handed down to dozens of protesters. But there’s mixed reaction to that plan.
When protests first started 11 days ago, you could be arrested for simply stepping off a sidewalk and cited for “failure to obey a lawful order.” But in the past several days, as police changed their approach, those kinds of citations weren’t issued.
That’s why some argue the nearly 200 peaceful protesters arrested early on should have those records wiped.
Justice Horn is proud of the diverse communities who have come to advocate for change over the past several days.
“I think it shows our community is not only united but we actually want to see change in how our community is ran,” Horn said.
But he was incredibly frustrated when police repeatedly sprayed tear gas and fired rubber bullets into large groups of demonstrators the first three days of protests and arrested more than 150 people.
“I know those streets we were stepping onto,” Horn said. “We’re all taxpaying people and we pay for those. I think what we saw is when the police stepped back and tear gas stopped being deployed and everything, I think it has to be stated that nights stopped being so violent.”
Kansas City Councilman Brandon Ellington agrees.
He’s proposing an ordinance to toss out protesters’ municipal charges. State criminal charges for things like property damage, theft and attacking officers would stand.
“It shows the city is concerned about people’s democracy and their right to protest and also preserving the rule of law because law enforcement should not be trifling on people’s rights if they’re not violating any law,” Ellington said.
But there’s vocal opposition to the proposal. More than 140 letters have poured into the city, urging a “no” vote.
The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police said some members have even threatened to quit if arrests they made are invalidated.
“When you start getting rid of cases where police officers need the right to tell people to follow directions, it’s anarchy,” said Brad Lemon, Kansas City FOP Lodge No. 99 president. “The fact is, we’re hired to enforce laws. We don’t create those laws.”
The FOP argues the original tickets were only written when officers were being assaulted, and that’s why people doing the very same thing might’ve been arrested during initial protests and not arrested in the days that have followed.
“This wasn’t about trying to enforce a rule just to enforce it. Those rules were enforced at the same time bricks were being thrown. At that time, it was time to get rid of the crowds and protect the people standing in front of those protesters from being struck in the head and being put in the hospital,” Lemon said.
The measure to wipe municipal charges for protesters has a legal review Thursday morning, followed by a committee hearing at 12:30 p.m. Those on both sides are encouraging everyone to make their voices heard before the plan gets a vote.