KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A group of students and young professionals in Kansas City are at the frontline of a political battle nearly 3,000 miles away in Venezuela.
Luis Ramos and four others have started the group “Kansas City for Venezuela” to support their family and friends who are in the middle of a nearly month-long riot in Venezuela that has resulted in 12 deaths.
"They just say, ‘Keep at it, keep praying,’” Ramos said, “you know, were here, but they don’t really like to talk about all that goes on during the day.”
"The streets are closed, there's no way to get around many places,” Andrea Brito said, whose parents are in Venezuela.
Thousands are protesting in Venezuela to either support or evict the current president Nicolas Maduro.
Before this week, Ramos didn’t know anyone in the group. It’s their feelings of the riots back home in Venezuela that has brought them together.
"It’s heartbreaking,” Brito said.
"And it’s that fear inside that you’re like, ‘Was it my cousin? Was it my aunt?’” Ramos said.
The group rallied at the Country Club Plaza and held a prayer gathering for family. More than 50 people showed up.
"We can’t really do much actively,” Ramos said. “We’re not going to go out on the streets and put a barricade up like our friends are doing at home, but we can support them in the best way we can."
One of Ramos’ friends in Venezuela has been arrested for protesting.
"We’re actually still trying to figure out where he’s actually at,” he said.
The news of his arrest adds another reason for him and his new friends to keep planning.
They plan to continue rallying around Kansas City and possibly travel to Washington D.C. to join other protesters from around the country. They have set up a Facebook page and a twitter account @vzla_midwest.