Wearing respirator masks and bearing signs, about 30 people marched to police headquarters on Sunday to spread a message after the killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis earlier this week.
“Stand with us, not against us.”
In marching on the Buchanan County Law Enforcement Center, protest leaders urged those in attendance to not disrupt Downtown goings-on, damage property or cause a disturbance by any means, other than by chanting and displaying such slogans. Their message was associated with the Black Lives Matter international cause. A number of associations directed people toward the march, such as the Facebook group United We Stand of St. Jo MO, the MidCity Excellence Learning Center and the Word of Faith Family Worship Center.
Citing the example of Martin Luther King Jr., among others, protesters emphasized that they believe violence can offer no resolution to their concerns, but that nonviolent action must take place now, to bring change within law enforcement agencies and in their approach to race relations.
“I think reform would look like this: Whatever authority you are in, that you respect the people that you are serving,” said The Rev. R. Robert Warren, pastor of the Word of Faith church. “That’s what I think would be ideal. I think that’s what this is all about. That’s what we’re mad about.”
Officials with the St. Joseph Police Department briefly addressed protesters at police headquarters on the building’s eastern side, while officers were photographed amicably interacting with demonstrators at other locations on Sunday. No significant crowd containment response by law enforcement is thought to have occurred in the city, in contrast with the street battles that have been seen throughout the nation in the last week.
The now-infamous killing of George Floyd last Monday by a Minneapolis police officer has set off a storm of protest unseen since the tumult of the late 1960s. The officer has since been charged with third-degree murder, and he and three officers who handled that incident have lost their jobs. While protest leaders say they hold that more is required in that particular case, they stressed the point that Floyd is just one among a great many victims, most of whom are black, of excessive force used by police officers nationwide.
Madelynn Boyts, a leader among the United We Stand group, said her cause did not begin with Floyd’s killing, and it will not end when that case is resolved. Police organizations nationwide must be re-made, in her view, so that first and foremost, all members of the public — including those who have done wrong — are treated with dignity, as human beings whose lives must be preserved at all costs.
“(Officers), you are literally their first line of defense,” she said. “You are there to defend them, and you ... I think, when you don’t understand their fears, when you don’t understand how truly afraid they are ... That’s the issue here.”
Allison Bridgman further stressed the point that there is no cause to resent police officers who are trained to enforce the law in minority communities, and who are held to high standards by extension. She cited Germany and other nations in Europe, where police killings of civilians are virtually unheard of, as an example of a successful policing approach.
“I think it should be very difficult to become a police officer,” she said. “That’s what reform would look like: Better education, longer education on conflict resolution.”