Black Lives Matter Protest Turns Into BBQ With Police Officers
Residents and the police department of Wichita show us how it's done.
Rather than marching along streets, chanting, and holding signs while uniformed officers stood guard, supporters of the Black Lives Movement and police officers gathered in a Wichita, Kansas, park to break bread — or, more accurately, to fire up the grill, and enjoy each other’s company.
Photos and video of the event show officers in uniform dancing with crowds of children and adults and hanging out on the basketball court.
According to the Wichita Eagle:
"At one table, three men — a black man, a Hispanic man and a white man — sat down with burgers next to police Lt. Travis Rakestraw to share their ideas. It was the first time since 1992 that Jarvis Scott, the black man, said he'd sat down with a police officer, and the other two said it was their first time ever sitting down with an officer."
So how did this kumbaya moment come to be?
The idea was born when Black Lives Matter activist A.J. Bohannon had a long meeting with Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay to discuss his plans for a protest, NPR.org reported.
They dubbed it the “First Steps Community Cookout,” and it’s an inspiring example of what can happen when groups on either side of an issue sit down, put egos aside, and discuss what they’re actually trying to achieve.
Ramsay held a Q&A so residents could ask questions of the officers. The department also announced each officer will wear body cameras and all interactions with citizens will be recorded.
Making the moment even more poignant, they gathered hours after news came out of Baton Rouge that three police officers had been shot and killed, and three more injured.
"We can get on the same page and say those things that are in Baton Rouge don't trickle over into Wichita, Kan.," Bohannan told KMUW. "I think the fact that that did happen makes this event more meaningful. I definitely think this is a start for this community, and I definitely want to keep it going."
The event is also a refreshing break from the onslaught of headlines of police violence against black people. Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge. Philando Castile was killed by a police officer in Minnesota while his fiancee recorded it. These incidents set off a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the US and a torrent of commentary on social media.