KANSAS CITY, Mo — A vote to remove protestors from the lawn of Kansas City Hall did not materialize in Thursday’s city council meeting, sending a message that they are welcome to stay.
While there was no discussion about tent city or the protestors inside the City Council Chamber, two city councilmen joined protestors outside on the steps of City Hall to support the occupy movement.
“I am going to do everything in my power to encourage my colleagues to make sure that you are welcome here for as long as it takes for your voice to be heard,” said 4th District Councilman Eric Bunch.
Third District Councilman Brandon Ellington also weighed in. “You have a few people on the council that I know is committed to working with you guys in whatever capacity,” he said.
Bunch and Ellington stood with protestors who, among other things, are demanding termination of KCPD Chief Rick Smith, overall police reform, and reduction of the KCPD budget by 50 percent. The 2021 budget passed by City Council allocated $272 million to KCPD.
“That is more than health, parks, neighborhood services, housing, homeless services and indigent medical care combined. That ain’t right,” said Bunch
Both Bunch and Ellington said they support support taking a chunk of that money and putting it towards other programs such as homelessness, mental health and eduction.
“Because when you use evidence-based programs and programs that have evidence or the educational component, you not only reduce crime, you change the paradigm of those in low income areas,” Ellington said.
No city council members, including Bunch and Ellington, mentioned tent city occupiers or their demands during Thursday’s meeting. The Council has authority to remove occupiers and its inaction is seen by some as a show of support, allowing protestors to remain as long as things are peaceful.
“I think the City Council’s view and more broadly the community view is ,we can hear different voices. We may disagree on the speech that is being provided, the viewpoints,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas. “I think I’ve said a few times, I think it’s very unlikely that police budget is cut. The City Council does not hire and fire the Police Chief nor individual officers. That said, we certainly respect and recognize voices that are being heard.”
Protestors said they will stay camped out at City Hall until their demands are met.