A Lawrence Man Is Charged With Assault After Hundreds Protest Operation Legend In Kansas City
Opposition to federal agents being sent to Kansas City sparked cries for racial justice and police reform over the weekend. Here's an overview of what happened.
Update: A previous version of this article did not include the name of the protester whose speech is quoted below.
On Friday night, protesters gathered outside the Kansas City Police headquarters downtown to protest a federal initiative to send more than 200 law enforcement officers to Kansas City to address what Attorney General William Barr calls "a surge in violent crime." The protest was organized by two local groups, One Struggle KC and Black Rainbow.
The initiative being opposed, Operation Legend, is named after four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in Kansas City last month. Protesters also demanded legislation to cut funding for the Kansas City Police Department in half with the aim of redirecting those funds to housing, health care and education.
In one of the speeches delivered Friday night, protester Jenay Manley — an organizer affiliated with the group KC Tenants — declared, "We are living in a world where we are only allowed to die. Black people are dying at higher rates of COVID. We are dying from displacement, forced from our homes onto the street. We are dying at work as our jobs refuse hazard pay or appropriate gear. We are dying because we have a racist-ass president who emboldens white supremacists to chase us down and shoot us while we are running. We are dying because police keep killing us."
She continued: "Stop blaming us for our own oppression. Stop promoting a false notion that policing is the answer to oppression."
Pepper spray was deployed, and several protesters were arrested in a night that left a statue outside the police headquarters, as well as the headquarters itself, vandalized with spray paint. The statue honors 119 Kansas City police officers who have fallen in the line of duty.
One of those arrested — Preston Foster, 23 — was ultimately charged with two misdemeanors, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, according to an official statement from the office of Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. Court reports say that as a police officer tried to exit the police headquarters, Foster repeatedly slammed a door on his hands. Foster was reportedly trying to brace the door to prevent officers from leaving.
On Saturday morning, volunteers gathered at the police headquarters to clean up the damage from the previous night.
Mayor Quinton Lucas has been the object of protesters' criticism for reaching out to Missouri Governor Mike Parson for help with gun violence in Kansas City. That letter began the chain of events that gave rise to Operation Legend at the federal level, though Lucas has said he was not informed of the deployment of agents or involved in that decision ahead of its public announcement.
Lucas took to Twitter after Friday night's protest to condemn the vandalism. "Defacing a monument to officers killed in duty, spray painting profanities on public buildings," he writes. "None of those actions tell this black man you care about me or my family’s struggle. None of it tells me you’re trying to make change."