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Kansas City mayors, past and present, reflect on protests after murder of George Floyd

Protestors evade tear gas at the George Floyd protests in Kansas City .jpg
Posted at 2:00 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 18:25:49-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked large protests in cities of all sizes, across the country and the world.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II served as the Kansas City, Missouri, mayor from 1991 to 1999.

Shortly into his first term, the Rodney King beating sparked the LA Riots and similar protests across the country.

"Well it was frightening," Cleaver said. "But it was also heartwarming."

The congressman remembers rushing to Brush Creek, discouraging angry Kansas Citians from marching onto the Country Club Plaza and getting support from a local pastor and his community.

Decades later, 2020 brought thousands to the Country Club Plaza to protest the death of George Floyd.

Current KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas was captured by KSHB 41 News cameras talking to people on a bullhorn.

"We were trying to tell everybody that we were listening, that we understood where they were coming from," Lucas said. "You know, I think that helped calm down a bunch of people."

KSHB 41 News asked Lucas how much pressure he felt at the time.

"A lot. That was a wild time. The congressman knows. We were dealing with COVID, so you had all of that and the world was already a little amped up," Lucas said. "You saw what went down in Minneapolis and other places but, I'm proud both of our city and everyone involved. I think we were able to take it from a negative direction and turn it where people were at least trying to peacefully assemble and peacefully get to a better path."

The effects have been lasting, according to Lucas.

"In every way we're dealing with fallout," he said. "That was the thing that was interesting during the moment, because you recognized that this is not something that's going to be done in a second or in a minute. We're dealing with questions about policing, recruiting a new police chief now and thinking about — how do we have somebody who's engaged in the community and helping us get ahead of some of these issues?"

Despite the heartache of the outcry, Cleaver is still encouraged by the progress that has been made.

"Well these are different times to be sure. I'm still convinced that this is a better moment than the 90s or the late 70s and 80s," he said. "Hope hangs out where it always has, between faith and love. It's always there, never leaves. That's its position. So I have hope that everything is going to be better."