Big Black Lives Matter protest in Overland Park maintains pressure for change

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Their message is getting louder and stronger.

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement hit the streets on Saturday morning in Overland Park. It’s the latest of many protests of social injustices in recent weeks in the Kansas City metro.

Protestors at Saturday’s march said their push for social equality is here to stay, and that their displeasure with recent events involving police brutality hasn’t faded.

“Black Lives Matter… Black Lives Matter,” the chant rang out as approximately a thousand marchers made their way from Overland Park’s city hall into the city’s downtown commercial area.

“It has to stop. Enough is enough,” Linnaia McKenzie, a spokesperson for the Advocacy and Awareness Group of Johnson County, said.

McKenzie said this march and protest were organized through a partnership with the Overland Park City Council and Police Department. A lifelong Overland Park resident, she said she and other African Americans in Johnson County want to be sure their city loves them as much as they love it.

“The message is important right now. It’s something that has always been put on the back burner,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said it was the death of George Floyd, other recent controversial killings and the groundswell of support surrounding those cases that pushed her to get involved and organize this protest.

“Being black is not something to be afraid of. We’re people just like everybody else. It’s time for the community to come together in agreement about that,” McKenzie said.

Organizers at the march agreed that with each of these marches, the message gets stronger. They said Americans who didn’t originally understand the message of Black Lives Matter are buying in.

Fred Jones, present of Johnson County’s chapter of the NAACP, said these protests won’t settle down until significant changes take place.

“We’re all human beings, and we need to be treated like that,” Jones said. “There’s nothing that’s been said that isn’t true. When you have truth and facts, people want to listen. When they’re willing to listen, they’re willing to change.”

Chief Frank Donchez, Overland Park’s Police Chief, said he realizes this movement’s roots rest in protesting against police brutality. He said he’s hopeful partnerships within the community can lead to peace.

Chief Donchez, who was in attendance at Saturday’s event, could be seen applauding speakers who campaigned in favor of social equality. 

“It’s about communication and collaboration,” Chief Donchez said. “Government is for the people and by the people. If change is what the electorate wants, I think change needs to happen.”

NAACP leaders in Johnson County said the next march is being planned for Olathe. Jones said that event is being organized by Olathe’s NAACP chapter, and as far as he knew, there was no date set for that upcoming event.

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