KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City police spokesman says, from their perspective, Tuesday was the best night of protesting on the Country Club Plaza so far, as of 11 p.m.
“Tonight’s been the best night we’ve had, and I’m confident in saying that,” KCPD Sgt. Jake Becchina said. “The group has maintained a peaceful presence for the most part, and we’ve been very happy with how things have gone.”
Hundreds gathered once again at the Plaza in the afternoon, with a large crowd still remaining by the late hours.
Becchina said officers arrested about 15 people for various reasons — a few protesters threw bottles at officers just before 11 p.m. but were quickly detained.
Police had to use pepper spray a few times, but have not had to deploy tear gas Tuesday, Becchina said.
It was a notable change from the past four nights of protests, where several officers were injured, police deployed tear gas and the events were eventually declared unlawful assemblies.
KCPD Chief Rick Smith said they’ve been listening to feedback, and the department is trying to take a different approach in hopes of deescalating the tension at protests.
“I feel like we’re digging the same hole night after night,” Smith said. “We really want things to change.”
There was an noticeable shift in Tuesday’s protest as police kept their distance for much of the day.
“We have granted some space tonight that I don’t think was there on previous nights,” Becchina said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say for sure if that led to a more positive outcome, but tonight’s been the best night overall.”
Protesters hope the change continues.
“I think they are starting to feel the sentiment, and we’re seeing it play out as officers begin to break the lines and kneel and understand what this is all about,” protester Zachary Archie told FOX4. “This isn’t people against cops. This is people against racism.”
But perhaps the biggest change on Tuesday was a new group attending the protests.
Dozens of faith leaders from Kansas City joined protesters for most of the night, praying, marching and singing with protesters — and also praying with police.
“To have them come out and pray for the safety of this group, and to pray for our safety, and to have that unifying effort that they’ve had, we are so thankful,” Becchina said. “I can’t help but think that there’s some level of positive impact that that has to have.”
The protest was still going on as of 11 p.m. but police are optimistic it will end peacefully.
The department is planning a Unity March in conjunction with the Justice Center at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
It will start in the front lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum. The march will move to Brush Creek Park, near the Plaza where protests have been taking place for five days now.
City officials, pastors and community leaders are all expected to attend what’s being billed as an event “for human rights and peace in our streets.”
Hear more from Becchina in the video player below.