July 2016 In Wichita, Kansas a local Black Lives Matters activist group wanted to hold a protest after the recent incidents of violence. They spoke with Chief Gordon Ramsay of the Wichita Police Department about holding their event.
The Chief proposed the idea of a cook out for the community where Officers, BLM and anyone else who wanted to attend could come and mingle. It would be and informal atmosphere where everyone could get to know each other on a more personal and human level, just one on one in a social setting.
Both BLM activists and the Chief agreed that it could and would work and so it was decided. On July 17 in the McAdams Park in Wichita on sunny Sunday afternoon members from all parts of the community gathered to meet. They spoke, danced, ate a vast portion of the 2,000 hotdogs that had been provided but most of all connected with each other.
During the event Officers served hamburgers and hot dogs and played basketball with members of the community. Kids jumped in bounce-houses and blew bubbles. Officers and the community even danced together.
Jarvis Scott, a black man who sat at a table with a Hispanic man and a white man, next to Lt. Travis Rakestraw, told The The Wichita Eagle it was the first time since 1992 he’d sat down with a police officer. The other two said it was their first time sitting with an officer.
“It takes two parties to make a healthy relationship,” Chief Gordon Ramsay said.
Did it work?
Well according to KMUW who interviewed the BLM activist AJ Bohannon who initially contacted Chief Ramsay about a protest Bohannon said:
It’s an amazing turnout. I’m definitely blessed to be a part of something like this and to be able to spearhead something like this in this community.
I think what happened in Baton Rouge made this event that much more important so that
we can get on the same page and so those things that happened in Baton Rouge don’t trickle over into Wichita, Kansas. My heart goes out to those families and those officers in Baton Rouge, but the fact that that did happen makes this event more meaningful.
Bohannon was asked about the events and the best parts of the day etc and stated:
Best part of the day? “The Fellowship Citizens hugging police. Citizens hugging sheriffs. Old hugging the young. The young hugging the old. This is amazing. Just to be able to put something like this together and witness it? This is definitely a milestone in my life I’ll never forget.”
Another attendant by the name of Elizabeth Green was quoted as saying:
Community interactions with the police are important because you actually get to see the people who are policing you as human beings, rather than just people with a gun.
Officers in attendance thought it was a good starting point:
Wichita Police Officer Von Hardin was quoted as saying:
It’s a good starting process for the city of Wichita. Everybody getting along, everybody having fun. What I’d like to see next is to keep this trend going, having more functions with the community.
Wichita Police Officer Mike Johnson added:
This is a way to bring the community and us together. It’s building that bridge that’s been separated for a very long time. We needed to do this years ago, but I’m glad god’s blessed all of us to be here and to start doing something right now.
However not all attendees were satisfied and didn’t see he point of it Marv Jones was less than pleased in his response to being questioned about the event stating:
“I don’t see the justice of what’s really going to come about from all this, just feeding people and asking questions. Our justice system and our government, it’s all corrupt. So until we go to officials who put these officers in charge…that’s where we need to go.”
The Wichita Police Department was kind enough to post some photos of the event – this is a sampel of them. There are many more on their official facebook page.
The Wide Blue Line thinks it worked. In reality, this type of event can hold great promise in making situations better one on one. Dialogs begin and people learn that problems exist, but that in the end, people are people. We all are the same.
If these types of events were happening instead of protests, there would be far less problems for everyone.