The coordinators of Project Justice ICT seem to have drawn the ire of the Wichita Police Department by holding real protests, instead of those “play” protests and marches that are typically pre-approved and coordinated with high level WPD officals.
To get under the skin of Wichita Police, you don’t have to be strong and mighty, violent and drunk, speeding or doing drugs. What appears to really upset them is persistence.
Gabrielle Griffie, 24, executive director of Project Justice ICT, and two of her co-organizers were arrested in Wichita last weekend. Griffie was arrested for the misdemeanor charge of Unlawful Assembly. It appears after about two days of leading a crowd of protestors in downtown Wichita, WPD had had enough.
A protest here or there, that’s OK. But persistently making your case, showing up day-after-day. Now that’s more than WPD is prepared to put up with.
They watch from a distance on day one, and again on day two, but on the third day, they turned to the press for help. In a press release, obviously meant to share with the community, they asked, “Who are these people?
“WPD has always supported individual's right to demonstrate lawfully and has previously worked alongside other demonstration leaders to ensure their groups were able to share their views safely,” the release said. However …
We don’t know these people. (Not required.)
They didn’t come through us. (Not required.)
They’re actually protesting. (Which is their right.)
Permits are not required for protests, it’s a right guaranteed them by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.
Protestors are not required to announce their protests, give the police a heads up or even politely share their planned march route with the authorities. So there was nothing illegal about their gathering.
However, the press release went on to accuse them of:
Blocking traffic. (A little.)
Causing disturbances. (Not really.)
Vandalizing property. (Not at all.)
Aggravated assault with a firearm. (Not them, but against them.)
Battery. (Again, not them, but against them.)
Griffie says a number of people drove through their group, motorcyclists bumped them and then backed up and came back at them, and several of those individuals were brandishing firearms.
“Charges will be forthcoming,” the release concluded.
Well, ultimately, the charge was misdemeanor unlawful assembly, and none of the hyped-up charges they were accused of committing.
“They pretty much did it to intimidate us,” said Griffie, “to keep us from organizing.”
Things went pretty well day one and two of the protest. The group stayed mostly in downtown Wichita, which is usually pretty dead. Things actually heated up when the group decided to not just protest, but to march. They headed down Douglas past Century II and ended up at the Delano roundabout.
With more traffic in the area, the group had more of an opportunity to interact with the public, and it appears a lot of people weren’t too happy to see them and were willing to express their disdain.
“They never came over when people were running us over. They never came over when all these alleged crimes were happening,” said Griffie, “but then they released that statement.”
“It wasn’t like coincidental. It wasn’t like that we were causing this destruction. I think it was that they wanted to blame whatever disruption it was on us to discredit the movement and to throw us off our organizing game. And to keep people from gathering,” stated Griffie.
“It was to signify to all the bikers, all the White supremacists, the counters, the law-and-order people that something was going on and it was to make themselves look good, to look like they were doing something, when over all three days they hadn’t done anything.”
If their goal was to get the protestors to stop, they didn’t. The group is already back at it again this week.
Each day, the crowd varies, from possibly 50 to 100 protestors, almost all young and male. On Aug. 5, in addition to Griffie, there were less than a handful of Black protestors. One of them was carrying a “Free Albert Wilson” sign. Wilson is the young Black KU student who was found guilty of raping a White teen in his off-campus apartment despite lack of DNA evidence.
Griffie says she’d like to have more Black protestors but it’s hard and that having allies (people of other races) for the cause is a good thing.
“For whatever reason,” she said. “It’s hard to get Black people out. I know, it’s a lot to put on yourself."
For certain, Griffie doesn’t have plans to quit anytime soon. Like the saying goes, “she's in it for the movement, not for a moment.”
She won’t quit until there’s “real change” and she has some fairly major items on her "real change" list.
Griffie calls herself an “abolitionist," which means she wants to abolish everything. She wants to abolish the police, and abolish almost any structural organization that takes power away from the people. Give more power to the people, she says.
"What I would like is for racial justice to really happen.
“I want White people to be held accountable.
“I want our rates of incarceration to be almost eliminated.
“I want our economy to be so robust that people don’t have to steal to eat ... and I will be out here until it gets done.”
FOLLOWUP: Another Arrest - updated Aug. 7, 2020
Griffie and three other protestors were arrested the night of Aug. 6.
The Wichita Eagle reported: All of the people are from Wichita and were arrested in “multiple locations” around town in connection to incidents that happened between July 29 and August 6, Wichita Police Officer Kevin Wheeler said in a press conference Aug. 7.
Their names and charges are:
- Gabrielle Nyette Griffie, 24, was arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly and aggressive or harassing contact prohibited
- Charles Preston Ellis II, 45, was arrested on suspicion of aggressive or harassing contact prohibited, battery, rioting and criminal damage to property
- Bryant Edward Jacobs, 33, was arrested on suspicion of aggressive or harassing contact prohibited and defacement or damage of property by graffiti
- Marissa Renee Gonzalez, 23, was arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly, aggressive or harassing contact prohibited, assault and defacement or damage of property by graffiti
Project Justice ICT tweeted at 10:18 p.m. Aug. 6 that they were “okay on bail, but other people in the community may not be as lucky.” A bail fund has been set up by the Wichita chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Griffie had commented regarding her arrest the previous weekend that police had surveilled her and other protestors for hours at their homes before arresting them.