KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A video showing police arresting a protester in a crowd at the Country Club Plaza and pepper spraying demonstrators at close range on May 30 has sparked outrage on social media.
Protests broke out across the nation last week in response to the death of George Floyd. Many of this weekend’s protests were peaceful across the nation. However, some turned violent, prompting governors of multiple states to activate the National Guard.
In the video, a protester is heard yelling at Kansas City police, asking them to turn in their badges.
At one point, the protester, who has not been identified, steps off of the curb and continues to yell, using profanity.
Several police officers are then seen approaching the protesters, some of them carrying spray containers. One officer is seen shooing the other demonstrators back.
The protester steps back onto the curb, but police grab him anyway. Someone grabs onto the protester around the waist from behind, and others crowd around him.
That’s when one police officer sprays some of the protesters in the face.
“People are trying to hold that person back. I don’t think he’s resistant, but some of the crowd is resistant,” Police Chief Rick Smith said June 2 when asked to address the video, confirming that he had seen it. “That’s how the officers on the scene decided that was the best tool.”
Police have repeatedly said they have worked to keep people inside the park.
They have asked protesters not to enter the streets. But they said they do sometimes allow designated organizers to address the crowd from the street, and large groups have marched down Main Street and Broadway several nights.
“We want to use peaceful [measures]. We’re trying to do that,” Smith said. “When we say, ‘That curb is the line,’… we have to set an expectation, and we have to do that for the safety of everybody involved.”
In the video, an officer met with resistance from the crowd is seen firing an initial spray, which strikes at least one woman in the face.
As people in the crowd erupt in anger, you can see objects thrown at police officers, who then spray more bursts toward the crowd.
Someone in the crowd can be heard yelling, “He has a First Amendment right to speak his mind.”
The total video is one minute and 11 seconds long.
“What you’re probably seeing is the end result of the individual repeatedly defying the orders earlier in the day,” Deputy Chief Karl Oakman said. “You’ll see them going in and out of the street, and eventually, you’ll get to the point where that’s the best opportunity to take him into custody.”
KCPD responded to the video posted on Twitter, saying they will review the officer’s actions. The man was reportedly arrested for “protest-related charges.”
The response also stated that the crowd resorted to throwing things at officers and interfering with an arrest, noting those are crimes and “led to the officers using pepper spray.” The department did not address the initial use of pepper spray.
Watch the entire news conference in the video player below. The response to the video comes at about 18 minutes and 45 seconds.