NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

Protesters Occupy City Hall With 'People's City,' Kansas City Mayor Says Their Demands Aren’t Realistic

100320_cm_PeoplesCity
Carlos Moreno/KCUR.org
Volunteers at the 'People's City' ready a tent around noon Monday with provisions for the encampment on the south side of city hall.

Lucas’ comments set up a showdown with organizers, who vow to remain camped at City Hall until Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith is fired and the police department’s budget is cut by 50%.

As dozens of protesters occupied the lawn of Kansas City, Missouri, City Hall, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said several of their demands are not realistic.

The demonstrators have been camped outside since Friday night, after a video of Kansas City Police violently arresting a pregnant woman circulated on social media. Rachel Hudson, speaking for the KC Coalition for Black Lives, says they have no plans to leave until their demands are met.

“We are on our fourth day — our third cycle of 24 hours — and our occupation will continue until Chief Rick Smith is fired for his gross injustice as well as the officer for the brutality he displayed towards Deja and her unborn child,” Hudson told reporters on Monday.

In addition to the firing of Chief Rick Smith, organizers are calling for the termination of the officer who arrested 25-year-old Deja Stallings.

Their last demand is for the Kansas City Council to divest 50% of the police department budget and reinvest it into health, educational, and housing programs.

But in a webinar on the future of policing hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Lucas said he didn’t think a 50% cut in the police budget is realistic. He also did not indicate he would call for a vote of the Board of Police Commissioners on Smith’s employment.

“I do not believe that we can defund the police by 50% in Kansas City,” Lucas said in response to a question by UMKC student body president Brandon Henderson.

100520_Lucas_UMKC_Webinar.png
Screengrab
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas appeared in a webinar on the future of policing, hosted by the University of Missouri- Kansas City, as protesters camped in front of City Hall.

Lucas added he’s not sure it’s legally allowed under Missouri statute, which requires the city to use 20% of its general fund for police. Currently, the city dedicates 38% of the general fund to police.

During the webinar, which Lucas attended from City Hall, he was asked directly whether he plans to call for a vote of the Board of Police Commissioners, of which he is a member, on the future of Chief Smith, Lucas said he didn’t know of any plans for a vote.

“I have not heard a discussion in connection with this. There are regular reviews of the chief’s performance,” Lucas said. “So, no, I cannot say that that will be an upcoming Board of Police Commissioners subject or topic coming ahead for us.”

Lucas’ comments set up a showdown between his office and protesters, who have vowed to remain camped outside City Hall until their demands are met — or they are forcibly removed.

Protesters say several local elected officials, including council members Katheryn Shields, Eric Bunch and Melissa Robinson, have expressed support for the occupation.

Strict safety protocols, education regimen at the “People’s City”

The protesters occupying the lawn in front of Kansas City, Missouri, City Hall are following a regimented schedule — beginning with temperature checks every morning at 9 a.m., a media briefing at noon and political education at 6 p.m.

They’re calling the encampment the “people’s city.” Everyone admitted to the grounds receives a wristband and gets a temperature check each time they return to the “city” and are asked to watch their hands hourly.

100320_cm_PeoplesCity
Carlos Moreno/KCUR.org
Angel Simontan checks the temperature of a man entering the People's City encampment at Kansas City city hall Monday morning. The protest encampment was in its fourth day and had established strict safety measures and protocols for anyone spending time in its boundaries.

They’re also offering mental health sessions, yoga and dance parties to keep the energy positive.

“An occupation mission is simply just to occupy. So while we're occupying, we might as well give people the fundamentals that they need to understand the occupation,” Hudson said.

On Monday, a planned self-defense training is scheduled in the evening.

Organizers have underscored the importance of the occupation remaining non-violent.

“We are prepared for the long haul. This is not Portland or Seattle. We're not a bunch of ragtag kids setting dumpster fires. We are well-organized,” attorney Stacy Shaw told reporters over the weekend.

Pending litigation against Kansas City police

Shaw is representing Stallings, the pregnant woman arrested last week. She told reporters that the lawsuit will seek damages from the officer who arrested Stallings, although as of Monday afternoon the lawsuit had not been filed.

Stallings, who is reportedly nine months pregnant, is expected to speak at Tuesday’s press briefing. Organizers say she is still in a lot of pain.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.