By Ann Suellentrop
Note: The Sept. 4 March on KC, marking the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington led by Martin Luther King Jr., Aug. 28, 1963, was cosponsored by many local groups, including PeaceWorks. An estimated 500-800 persons attended the March on KC from the Police Department office at 12th and Locust to the World War I Museum and Memorial at Main and Pershing. Here are the reflections of PeaceWorks Board member Ann Suellentrop on the march and rally.
It was a beautiful day and a peaceful protest. I and another Board member, Charles Carney, arrived at the march about 5 minutes late. A young policeman near the police station kindly approached us and directed us to the street the marchers were marching on. Police escorts blocked streets all along the march route. A couple of times the march halted in an intersection and we had a rally for a while.
At the WWI Memorial, the speeches were about income inequity, police brutality, voting to bring about needed change in addition to protesting, and the necessity of taking part in the census. There were tables for registering to vote and for the census. Speakers were young and old, female and male, Black and white, and clergy and organizers, including US Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. There were many denunciations of police violence and murders, mention of names of those locally and nationally who’ve been murdered by cops, many calls for continued protests, many calls for the civil rights movement to be fully realized. There were expressions of grief and weariness, chants (“No Justice, No Peace,” etc.), music (saxophone & a woman singing “Strange Fruit”), young men drumming, young women and children dancing, and many calls for multiracial unity in seeking justice.
As Charles and I were leaving, Sheila Albers, the mother of 17-year-old John Albers, shot dead by Overland Park police as he backed the family’s van out of their garage in January 2019, spoke about her difficult fight to find out the truth about what really happened. In a civil suit against the police, Mrs. Albers found out the police never knocked on the door when they arrived or identified themselves, and one cop fired and hit John as the garage door was slowly opening, which caused him to swerve the van, and then they fired 11 shots, I think, and killed him. There is now a Johnson County group that is fighting for justice and transparency in police brutality/murder cases. They are calling for police to have Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. She asked for all to join in their efforts.
Charles Carney, after the march and rally, recalled that speaker Gwen Grant insisted Police Chief Richard (Rick) Smith of KC MO has to go—she said he has no compassion or imagination. Carney identified another theme of the afternoon: “provoke the vote.” Carney said, “We were cajoled and called on to get out and make our voices heard about the importance of the Nov. 3 vote.” He also reflected on “the interlocking injustices” of police brutality, white supremacy, racism, and poverty, all pointing to the need for a new president.