Protesters in Kansas City are still fighting for justice and the latest issue they’re mobilizing against? Federal occupation.

After Kansas City saw a 40% increase in homicides this year, Mayor Quinton Lucas called on Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session of the state’s General Assembly focusing on addressing violent crime in Kansas City. “We are at a crisis point in Kansas City and we need state legislative action on several items,” Lucas wrote in a letter to Parson.

The next week, Lucas learned from Twitter that the Department of Justice was sending more than 200 federal agents to Kansas City to investigate unsolved homicides and non-fatal shootings, as a response to Lucas’ letter.

The initiative, called Operation Legend, named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro who was shot and killed June 29 in Kansas City, was created as a result of President Donald Trump’s promise to assist cities dealing with violent crime. Attorney General William Barr announced the operation will deploy federal agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, DEA and ATF to help state and local officials fight violent crime.

The first arrest was made under the operation on July 20. Federal and local officers worked together to charge Monty W. Ray with being an unlawful drug user in possession of firearms, after he was driving a stolen vehicle with stolen firearms and admitted to law enforcement officers that he had used methamphetamine the day before.

Activist groups like Black Rainbow, Reale Justice Network, Urban League of Greater Kansas City (ULGKC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City (SCLC-GKC) and One Struggle KC still reject the operation, saying that Kansas City should not be a pawn in what they believe is just a way for Trump to politicize the city’s situation to win reelection.

“This is a policy which further militarizes our community and escalates the already elevated possibility of increased bloodshed in our streets — bloodshed that too often ends in the loss of more Black life,” said Rev. Vernon P. Howard Jr, SCLC-GKC president at a press conference and protest on the steps of KCPD on July 10.

One study by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service found that more police does not make a difference in crime. Activists agree, adding that if the city reallocates money to social services like mental health services, healthcare, cleaning up blight and creating more opportunities for recreational activities for children, violent crime would decrease.

Although KCPD said the federal agents will not patrol the streets, but instead work with detectives to investigate violent crime, activist groups still do not support it, demanding Smith and Lucas to use their power and denounce it.

Lucas supports the operation though. In a July 8 release , he said, “The investigative support effort can be only one tool out of many, such as mental health treatment and restorative justice, in addressing violent crime.”

“As mayor, I remain committed to working on all solutions to making our city safer and finding peace for all those impacted by violent crime,” Lucas said.

The special session of the Missouri legislature beginning on July 27 will address witness protection plans and a crackdown on illegal gun sales. Parson said issues having to do with police reform will be addressed at a session next year.

Groups Still Demand Chief Smith’s Resignation

“If you look across this nation, and you see high violent crime rates in inner cities, you will also find a police department that operates with high excessive force policies,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of ULGKC at the press conference. “Dysfunctional policing results in high crime.”

Dysfunction with the Kansas City Police Department is just one of the reasons community organizations are calling for Chief of Police Rick Smith to resign or for the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners to fire him immediately.

The last straw for many people in Kansas City was when Smith concluded that there was no probable cause that the KCPD officers who beat Brianna Hill, a transgender African-American woman, broke the law.

“Chief Smith has shown the people of Kansas City, that he will protect the officers of KCPD at the expense of civilians in our city,” Justice Horn, a Kansas City activist said at the press conference. “This happened because he doesn’t see Black people as equals. He doesn’t see trans people of color as people.”

The groups are calling for new leadership, someone who can bring massive reform to KCPD.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *