Thousands protest statewide; Gov. Kelly calls for end to “systemic inequalities”

Seven people were arrested after protesters threw rocks and debris at officers during a protest at Topeka police headquarters night, police said.

The confrontation Monday night involving about 150 people came hours after several hundred people had demonstrated peacefully in downtown Topeka. It was also the first major violence reported in protests in several Kansas cities in recent days over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Officers in riot gear also clashed with protesters early Tuesday in Wichita at a police station, but no serious injuries were reported.

Gov. Laura Kelly noted that Kansas residents had protested Floyd’s death peacefully and said she saw no reason for federal troops to be used to quell the demonstrations, as President Donald Trump suggested Monday. She said bringing the military “into this contentious moment” would do more harm than good.
“We need our leaders _ myself included _ to listen to those who felt their only means of being heard was to take to the street in protest,” Kelly said after Trump’s announcement. “We need action to change the systemic inequalities we have ignored for far too long. We need to stop with the divisive language and instead, come together and do what’s right for our state.”

At one point, some protesters at the Topeka Law Enforcement Center threw rocks and debris at officers trying to rescue a protester who needed medical attention, police said. Some officers were hit with bricks but were not seriously injured.

Police Capt. Mike Cross said when protesters began throwing objects at police, it became necessary to break up the assembly.

A Kansas Highway Patrol announcement could be heard warning people that if they did not disperse they could be arrested. Some officers wore riot gear and several people, including some members of the media, were hit with tear gas, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Several community leaders, including Mayor Michelle De La Isla, police Chief Bill Cochran and several officers had walked with participants during the earlier peaceful protest.

Brian Peters, who attended that protest, said the people at the Law Enforcement Center “defeated the purpose” that peaceful protesters were trying to achieve.

Hundreds of people also gathered Monday night in Wichita in a third straight day of protests. KAKE-TV reported the protest was mostly peaceful, although some people threw bottles and surrounded and screamed at officers.

Thousands of people joined protests over the weekend in Wichita, where Mayor Brandon Whipple has said he will form an advisory council to focus on inclusion, diversity, and civil rights in the city.

Peaceful protests also drew hundreds of people during the weekend in Manhattan, Hutchinson, and Kansas City, Kansas.