Lee's Summit protest calls for end to police violence

Posted at 10:00 PM, Jul 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 23:27:15-04

Dozens of people gathered outside Lee's Summit City Hall on Friday evening to raise awareness and call for an end to what they describe as police violence against the black community.

Former Florissant Police Officer Richard Stanford organized the event and was fueled by the shooting deaths of black victims in Minnesota and Louisiana this week.

"We're trying to collectively put our heads together to find out what can be done to help protect the youth," explained Stanford, who has lived in Lee's Summit for more than 10 years.

Stanford formally organized the event on Thursday, hours before police officers were shot and killed near a rally in Dallas.

"Peaceful assembly. That's what we're looking for here," he said. "There's already been too much bloodshed and too much pain."

During the protest, Stanford spoke to attendees, many of them young adults, about ways to avoid confusion and violence during a police traffic stop.

As a former police officer, Stanford explained the issues he says he saw while serving in the force.

"I've seen with my own two eyes how there's been racial disparity, racial profiling," said Stanford.

The event gathered dozens of people from all races together.

"Black lives do matter and black lives need to be paid more attention to," explained Carsyn Owen, who brought a sign to the event.

"Enough is enough. We need to take a stand," said Jessica Johnson, who attended the protest with her mother and brother. "That's why I'm here."

Throughout the event, Lee's Summit police officers monitored the area for safety. One officer was stationed on the roof of City Hall, while other officers blocked traffic from a nearby street.

At times during the protest, things got testy. At least twice during the event, shouts in opposition were heard from a distance.

One man walking away from the protest shouted, "White power!" Another man close by shouted "Go home!" to the protest group.

Despite the counter-protests, Lee's Summit City Manager Steve Arbo said it was important for people to have an avenue to voice their concerns following the controversial shootings earlier this week.

"I think all of us recognize the importance of allowing a political voice," said Arbo. "At the end of the day, that's what we need to do."

Moving forward, other leaders at the protest on Friday said they hoped to hold more events in the future to continue the conversation on race relations.

"We shouldn't hold our heads in the sand and pretend that this doesn't exist. It does," Stanford said.



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