Nov 12, 2020Kansas City police use violence against constitutional non-violent civil disobedience

Kansas City police use violence against constitutional non-violent civil disobedience

John M. Simpson Four-minute read.   Resources

The Social Justice Ministry of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Kansas City, Missouri, supports the non-violent protesters in Kansas City, Portland, Kenosha, Minneapolis, and elsewhere who protest about the unconscionable murders and shootings by police of Black persons.

Those murders and shootings are another horrendous examples of decades of police brutality and discrimination against Black Americans. Too many Black Americans in Kansas City have been innocent victims of such brutality and unconstitutional acts of violence by the police.

Based on their past acts of violence against Black Americans, it is no surprise that Kansas City police failed miserably in their handling of the protests about the murder of George Floyd.

There was a failure of leadership when Chief Rick Smith had no comment on the officer who killed George Floyd. For two days, he said nothing about protests in Kansas City. Instead, the Chief sent a public relations officer out to speak. (Melinda Henneberger, Kansas City Star June 2, 2020). Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray at non-violent protesters exercising their constitutional right to protest and declared unnecessary assemblies as a pretext to use force. At one point, they incorrectly tried to blame the violence on non-resident agitators. (Kansas City Star June 3, 2020).

Non-violent acts of civil disobedience are a necessary response to the systemic racism in the Kansas City Police Department and our city. Such protests will be disruptive but must be allowed in order for Black Americans to obtain their basic rights that have been cruelly denied for far too long. If there are persons destroying property or attacking others, the police can deal with them. At the same time, the police must not disrupt or attack the non-violent protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the police have not been trained to protect the good and arrest the bad.

White people will bear most of the costs and inconveniences of non-violent civil disobedience. However, white people created the system that caused Black Americans to be murdered, injured, and discriminated against.

Under these conditions, the basic rights lost by Black Americans are of far greater value than the costs for white people caused by the acts of non-violent civil disobedience. Therefore, the greatest costs of the non-violent acts of civil disobedience will be borne by the creators of the system.

Confronting the police, ignoring a curfew time, blocking and marching in a street or sidewalk, blocking a police car, or blocking a business or a governmental facility entrance are examples of non-violent acts of civil disobedience. Such acts must be considered non-criminal and constitutionally protected when done to obtain Black Americans’ basic human rights. Police must not have the power to arrest, remove or intimidate protesters engaging in those non-violent actions.

White people created a system designed to control and exclude Black people. Then, with all the power, they created a police force that protected their property interests. The result was a cruel and flawed policing system that is a major cause of our sad state of affairs. As stated above, the white population must bear the cost of ridding our county of that blight.

Strikes, pickets, and refusals to work are other forms of non-violent civil disobedience that are very effective. A wise person said it best: the one thing they cannot do is make us work. Such non-violent civil disobedience by Black Americans and others must be supported by and participated in by those with power and privilege (white people) to be successful. Non-violent civil disobedience does cause significant disruption, but as with any great change, the pain and disruption will be rewarded by great gains.

John M. Simpson. Chair of Social Justice Ministry of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri.

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