On Friday, August 21 a crowd of protesters gathered at the Indian Creek Recreational Center to demand that the charges filed against Darrien Richmond be dropped. Richmond, a chant leader for the local social justice advocacy group The Miller Dream LLC, was charged with battery of a police officer after attempting to intervene as the Overland Park Police Department (OPPD) arrested his wife and fellow activist Marisa Richmond on July 24.
The response by the OPPD, in which the police arrived in riot gear and refused to provide badge numbers, has come under much scrutiny from a number of civil rights groups, including the ACLU of Kansas, who wrote in a letter of concern addressed to Chief Frank Donchez that the department’s actions were “Overly Reactive and Militarized”.
The August event started at 6:30 in the evening and consisted of two parts: the rally and the march. The rally began first, two amplifiers were set up for the speakers. The Rally featured speakers form The Miller Project, White Rose and Black Rainbow. Each speaker took turns addressing the audience, speaking on behalf of Richmond and why they believe the police need to be defunded. Merisa Richmond took the mic and told the audience the story of how she and Darrien Richmond met up to the point of Darrien Richmond’s arrest.
“What happened to Darrien is irrefutable proof that it doesn’t matter how a black man looks, it doesn’t matter how he acts, it doesn’t matter how hard he works, black men are targeted in this country for no crime other than their skin,” Merisa Richmond said.
After the speakers finished Stacy Shaw, an attorney and activist who was also arrested during the July 24 protest, prepared the crowd to march. As the group made their way to the sidewalk, they were intercepted by police chief Mark Fitzgerald, who handed out fliers informing the protestors of city ordinances that they could possibly violate. While the rally was for Darrien Richmond, the march was to raise awareness for three demands:
- Police officers must be required to identify themselves at all times
- For greater transparency and accountability action items on the city council agenda
- To release the names of the officers involved in the July 24 arrests
The march continued into Mayor Carl Gerlach’s neighborhood.
“We want to bring that conversation in those neighborhoods,” Patrick Wotroba, event organizer, said. “We want the community to talk and understand that we all are fighting for the same thing, we all want peace, we all want justice, and we all just want to feel safe in our homes.”
As the protesters continued marching deeper into the neighborhood, chanting “No justice, no peace” and “We want police ID”, confused neighbors left their homes to see what the commotion was. Fitzgerald followed closely to prevent any altercations between protesters and the neighbors. Eventually, the marchers made their way to Gerlach’s cul-de-sac, at which point they circled the block, calling out to Gerlach and his neighbors to join the protest.
After around half an hour Fitzgerald told the crowd that the police may start arresting them, claiming that they were close to violating a residential picketing ordinance. The protesters were split into two groups, one group who could not under any circumstances be arrested, which Shall lead back to the recreational center, and one group who would stay and potentially spend the night in jail. A supportive neighbor allowed the remaining protestors to stay on their lawn as organizers spoke to them. One of the attendees who stayed after the warning was Reverend Brandon Frick.
“Jesus is really clear in my mind; Jesus is really clear that we have to stand with the oppressed because he himself stood with the oppressed,” Frick said.
Finally, at 9:30, Stacy came back to the cul-de-sac and thanked everyone for participating. The attendees walked back to the recreational center and three hours after it began, the protest ended.
It wasn’t just Darrien’s case, or Stacy’s case, or even the police’s response to the July 24 protest that united such a large group of people on a hot August evening. The overwhelming tone of the night was that of love of for the Black community of Overland Park, and anger at the way they have been treated by those sworn to serve and protect them, but above all else, a relentless hope that through the adversity change will come. The protestors that attended Friday night’s rally risked being tear gassed, incarcerated and even death, but regardless they came to assert that their lives and the lives of their community matter.
“We are the change that America has been waiting for. We are the promise that our ancestors died for,” Shaw said. “Our names, our stories, they will be remembered when people look back and say what happened in 2020 when a group of people stood up when it was not popular, when it was dangerous, when people called them radical, when people called them terrorists. Our stories will be in history.”
Darrien’s court date is set for September 25, 2020.
By Jason Yearout
A petition to get the charges against Darrien dropped was created by members of the community https://www.change.org/p/mayor-justice-for-darrien?recruiter=628642001&recruited_by_id=7fc37190-a7d0-11e6-8353-4d6e0457c9b9&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard