Riots in Ferguson, Mo., spark memories of Kansas City riots

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The outrage over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., sparked memories of Kansas City.

Protesters near St. Louis chanted, “No justice, no peace!” It’s a lesson community leaders said Kansas City learned before.

“What were the race relations like prior to this incident? That's what the report did, and it did a fair analysis,” Alvin Brooks, longtime Kansas City organizer, explained.

Brooks was a police officer in the city when race riots broke out in 1968 after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. He contributed to the final draft of the Mayor’s Commission on Civil Disorder.

This weekend’s riots in Ferguson over Brown’s death brought back memories from more than 40 years before.

“Of course, you can't help it; you're old enough and bold enough to think well enough of the past. That charts the course of the future. Yes it did, as I watched television and watched the burning and the looting and the confrontation,” Brooks said.

The lesson learned back then, Brooks explained, was to build relationships between the police and the community. That’s what his organization, Ad Hoc Against Crime, was designed to do.

“I do believe that this can happen anywhere, unfortunately. I do believe that here in Kansas City that our police chief and our community has a really good relationship where if something like this were to occur we would be able to bring some type of resolve to it sooner rather than later,” Jermaine Reed, the Executive Director of Ad Hoc and a member of the Kansas City city council, said.

As the community of Ferguson looks for answers, Brooks said others need to as well.

“So there's no perfect world, there's no perfect community. There's no perfect relationship, so I think that's something again that you'll have to work at, you'll have to be knowledgeable about and each time something like this happens; wherever it is, you have to be sensitive enough to say let's take a look at ourselves,” Brooks said.

The Mayor’s Commission also found this kind of protest and anger doesn’t usually just appear overnight.

“I do know sometimes, as reported in this report of 1968, 40 plus years ago, that normally that one incident is not what sparked the whole thing. Normally there's some unusual situations, some abnormal situations,” Brooks said. 

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