’68: The Kansas City Race Riots, Then and Now (Full Program)

’68: The Kansas City Race Riots, Then and Now (Full Program)


– Hello I’m KCPT’s Nick Haines. – And I’m Dia Wall
with 41 Action News. We’re at Lincoln College Prep where the protest
began 50 years ago. – And those protest
would lead to riots that would claim six
lives, 300 arrests, and multiple blocks
of a city in flames. – Tonight a special
report on what happened. – And stay with us for
a conversation with eyewitnesses, political leaders,
historians, and with you. – And now ’68: The
Kansas City Race Riots Then and Now. – [Narrator] The line
of mourners is endless. This is probably going
to be quite simply the greatest funeral
ceremony ever recorded of a private person
in the United States. (dramatic music) On this national day
of mourning in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, many Americans teeter
on the edge of fear. – [Narrator] Due to mob
action and civil disobedience a state of emergency
exists within the city of Kansas City, Missouri. – [Narrator] Here
in the state capital Governor Warren Hearnes
says he ordering elements of the National
Guard to Kansas City. – [Narrator] Fires are
reaching out of control in the area bounded
by 36th and Prospect through 39th and Prospect. – [Narrator] The
city’s general hospital received victims of the
violence throughout the night. Four were dead on arrival, one of these was
a 12 year old boy. – [Narrator] We have
15 persons injured in shooting incidents, 75 fires, and nearly 200
businesses looted. That’s part of the tally
in the Kansas City. – [Narrator] I seriously
question the necessity of throwing tear gas where
children are congregated. An investigation should be made. (dramatic music) – [Narrator] ’68 Kansas
City Race Riots Then and Now is a join presentation of
KCPT Public Television, 41 Action News, and the
Kansas City Public Library. (dramatic music) – It all started here, hundreds of high school
kinds in Kansas City were heartbroken after
the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the school districts failure to give them space to grieve. What started as
a student protest grew in size and intensity to the point that it forever
changed this community. Give me 30 minutes. Let me tell you a story. The who, what, when, where, but most of all the why. It may make you proud, and it may make you cry. But my hope is that
it reminds us all of how far we’ve come and inspires us to come
together the rest of the way. – [Announcer] NBC interrupts
it’s regular programs schedule to bring you the
following special report. – Martin Luther King
Jr. was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee. (dramatic music) – I was in this room
about 50 years ago sitting somewhere
near the north door. Morning of the 9th
of April, 1968. – [Dia] Grace and Holy
Trinity Church organized a special service honoring
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. days after his assassination. There was a speaker. – A young lady walked up
and handed him a note, right here, he
handed him a note. He says, “Thank you, is
there a Mr. Alvin Brooks “in the congregation?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “You have
an emergency call.” it was Robert Wheeler, who
was Assistant Superintendent of Urban Education for the
Kansas school district. And he said, “Al as we
predicted last night, “all hell’s broken loose.” – [Dia] District officials
met the night before to discuss closing KCPS
schools for Dr. King’s funeral. The three African Americans
voted to close the schools. Everyone else said
they should stay open. Ultimately the Superintendent,
James Hazlett stepped in. – Hazlett decided,
here’s what we’ll do. They had just completed the
school at 42nd and Indiana. Let’s name it Martin Luther
King, Jr. High School and then fly all the flags
on all the school properties at half mass. That wasn’t good enough for us, but it was good enough for them and so that’s why the
schools were open. – [Dia] On April 9th, 1968,
students from Lincoln Prep, Manual, and Central
started calling each other. – I mean King got shot
and it was like, “What?” They’ve killed
Martin Luther King? Here he was out there
trying to do good, trying to do it peacefully
and for that to happen. – Kansas City, Kansas
had allowed its students to come out of school and
that troubled the kids in the Kansas City
school district. – “We’re going to walk out because the school is
telling us to all stay in. And so we walked out. – [Dia] The kids from
Lincoln went first. Then the students from Manual. Hundreds of them
all went to Central. And when they got there,
the group merged together and headed to city hall. – It looked tome, they say 300, it looked like to
me a thousand people coming northbound of the Paseo and they were like
sidewalk to sidewalk. – [Al] At 17th Terrace and Paseo
is where the mayor came out and spoke to them. – [Dia] Mayor Ilus
Davis told the students they could go to city hall. – I think the butterflies went
to my stomach all the way up. Oh shoot you know. – Then the kids went
up north through I-70 and then walked west
on the eastbound lane. – [Dia] Bruce R Watkins
leading the way, first raised in the air. – I remember that march. My dad was serving
as mayor pro tem. First African-American
city councilman now serving mayor pro
tem during the riots. So I can see him feeling
a personal responsibility not only as an elected official,
but as a person concerned. – [Dia] Watkins was also
the first African American elected to countywide office. 71 Highway is named after him, but on April 9th,
1968, he was grieving Martin Luther Kings death too. – The most well-respected
civil rights leader in this country, in the
world was just assassinated. The atmosphere, the
mood of that time, was still very on the edge. – It was already fuming
even before his death. We were conscious
of the fact that it was a separation
of different colors. – [Dia] 1968 was
also in the heart of the black power movement. African Americans were
feeling new found pride in their heritage. Everything from fashion to music to the raised fist became
a symbol of solidarity and resistance in the
face of discrimination. That symbol is still used today. – We were ensconced in that and we were ready
to fight on our end. – [Dia] Bruce R Watkins was too. – It’s time for a change. It’s time to march. It’s time to do. – I felt like we were
empowered to do something. – I was a city desk reporter
at the Kansas City Star. During that period of the march, there was no damage. The kids no doubt were angry, but they weren’t
causing any trouble. They were not breaking
windows or anything like that. – [Dia] The students
made it to city hall. At the same time KMBC
cameras recording as the police line was forming. – We all got in a semi-circle,
just a group of us. There was nobody there
except a bunch of cops and highway patrolmen. There was a black female
walking the line in front of us and she was cursing
us and yelling at us. All of a sudden I saw
a soft drink bottle from behind her come
flying over her and broke. (dramatic music) The next thing I heard
was click, click, click at the sound of a
pin being pulled from a gas grenade
and the gas, foomp, and I mean it was all over. You know we had the
gas mask and stuff. – A whole bunch of tear
gas went out in that crowd and I think that made
the crowd very, very mad. And I think the riot
started at that moment. – [Al] And that afternoon,
evening, the burning started. – It was hurt that
brought the kids here to the steps of city hall, but once the tear gas
cans started flying, smoke filling the air burning
their eyes and their skin, the protesters moved
from hurt to angry. – [Clarence] Personally, this
is my own personal opinion, I didn’t see a need
for that first gas can. It was a pop bottle. It was one single
soft drink bottle. It wasn’t even close
to the officers. – [Dia] As an officer
what was your feeling? Did you feel like this
was the right call? This is the wrong call, oh no? – It’s a term you
can’t use on TV. I’ll just say oh sucks, sucks. – [Dia] KMBC cameras were
rolling as school district and city leaders
brought in buses to get the kids away form city
hall and calm things down. – Called Father
Timothy Given over at Holy Name Catholic
Church at 23rd and Benton about opening the
church for these kids because that’s were they had
teen towns every weekend. The police followed them
out there on these buses. The kids were in there, the music was blasting
and everything and then of course
the police were there and they started
taunting the police. And then police threw tear gas into the basement of the church. – [Dia] Witnesses describe
screams coming from below as officers blocked the doors. Others say police didn’t even
know the dance was going on. – These young people had
been completely honorable, peaceful, organized
and caring all the way from seven o’clock
in the morning. When the tear gas
began to hit people and they felt like it was
being done for nothing, for no reason at all, then that was the sense of
I’ve got to do something. Once that happened
and people fanned back out into the community
then all of a sudden it began to turn into fires and the story of the riot began. (fire sirens wailing) – [Dia] At 3:21, the
first shot is fired. At 4:17, the first Molotov
cocktail is launched. By 5:20, Mayor Davis
declared a state of emergency and imposed the first
emergency curfew in Kansas City’s history. As day turned to night,
reports of looting, vandalism and arson
took over the airways. KMBC cameras were there
as fire alarms sounded every two minutes. – As the night went
on it became scary because then the tanks are
going down our neighborhood. There was a curfew. – [Al] State troopers had
already been called in. – I heard a voice come
out of the creek and said, “Go back into the house.” it was the National Guard. They were camped
down in Brush Creek. – [Dia] Rioters attacked
numerous white people and targeted white
owned businesses too. – Race relations were shattered and the city faced
a real challenge. – [Dia] This wasn’t unique. Starting in 1964 there were
riots all across the country, New York, Los Angeles,
Chicago, Detroit. There were almost 160 riots
in the summer of 1967 alone. All of them stemmed from
rising racial tension. – [Clarence] ’68
there was real anger. – [Dia] These images
from Ferguson in 2014, look very similar to the
ones taken decades before. People in one community
who seem miles apart. – We think of us
against them sometimes. And when I say
them, I mean anybody who ain’t the police is
one of them so to speak. – [Dia] In the
days that followed six black men were killed
during the rioting. Maynard Gough, Charles
Martin, George McKinney, George McKinney,
Jr., Julius Hamliton, and Albert Miller. One with a case of
whiskey in his hands. Another with a
hand in his pocket. Two others just
watching the fires, another following police orders. – [Al] None of them were armed. None of them had a
confrontation with the police. – [Dia] They were
all shot by officers. No one ever charged
in their deaths. Many in the black community
feel scenarios like this are repeating themselves today. – The rumors were terrible and there were people
going around saying, “Oh man, them police going out “and just shooting people
on the street for no reason, “just driving around
shooting them.” And I knew that
wasn’t happening. – [Dia] But there was violence. – Kids laying on the ground. I said, “Hey Bubba,
what happened to him?” He said, “Oh he cut
his head on the glass “when he came out of
the building, split
the head opened.” Okay, I said, “Wait a minute,
he was already outside “when I left okay.” He pulled his gun
out and he said, “He cut it on this
piece of glass.” And I knew what he
meant, he decked him. As I look back at it I say, god, we were worse than
some of the people who we were trying
to arrest you know. – Today, police
departments are grappling with the danger
their officers face working to protect
those who protect us. At the same time people
are calling for fairness in enforcement when it comes
to communities of color. What do you think now, 2018, would help relationships
between the police department and the community? – I’m from the old school. Communicating with
the community. I’d like to think the
officers we’re getting now and the policies and
the way this department has turned around, that sort
of thing doesn’t happen again. (dramatic music) – It was an
earth-shattering year and the riots in Kansas
City changed everything. (guitar music) 31st Street, which had a lot
of African-American businesses, was essentially
burned to the ground. – The entire skyline of the
city is lit up in flames. The worst seems to be from
about 27th to 39th Street around Prospect and every one
of those blocks is a war zone. – I can recall being
on my aunt’s porch, she was at 32nd and Cleveland, just a block over
from Mercington. And we stood on her
porch in the dusk and we could see the
fires on 31st Street. – [Dia] First responders
who came to help became targets for the rioters. KMBC cameras caught
the aftermath. – African Americans began
to throw bottles and bricks at firefighters who came
over to answer the fire bill to put out the fires. – I was a junior in high school. I lived on Montgall
Avenue, 44th and Montgall. One block east of Prospect. Some building and some
things were being burned a block away from
where we lived. – Did it make any impact on you? – Yeah it did. I mean I still remember it and
I still remember the feeling. – When you look at the
looting and the arson and the vandalism, people
had specific reasons for why they targeted
some business and why they didn’t
hit other business. – And then people stated
putting signs on their windows, soul brother, to keep
form getting burned down or looted or whatever. – [Dia] Hundred of business
and buildings were destroyed. The property damage KMBC
filmed would amount to almost $30 million today. – My mother kept telling us, “Why are we burning
down our own things?” – Well, because that’s
the only world they knew. To go west of Troost was to die and I think everybody
realized that if not consciously,
certainly subconsciously. – Did we make a statement, by getting out the rage, yeah, but to burn down our own things didn’t make any
sense at that time. – So you see again, from the
perspective of somebody my age those were not our things. Those were people who came
into our neighborhood, did their business and
left at the end of the day. So it didn’t matter
to us you know. (dramatic music) – [Dia] The 1968 Mayor’s
Commission’s Report released a few months later identified why the
rioting happened. It list things like inequities
in the educational system, a lack of adequate
job opportunities, long standing difficulties
with the police department, and housing problems
and frustration with
efforts to fix it. – This was a
political statement. This was using
violence to communicate in a way that nonviolence
had been used in the south. Now was it a good idea? No, not really but
it was articulate. – [Dia] 44 people were
hurt in the riots. The area round 31st and
Prospect has never returned to the thriving business
community it once was. – Yeah, 50 years ago and
it doesn’t seem that long. – [Dr. Rhodes] You get
the sense that the riots could have happened just
a couple of months ago. All of those issues that caused
the riot are still there. (dramatic music) – This community was far
more vibrant decades ago. The 1970 U.S. Census
shows just over half of African American head
households own their homes. But in the latest
census in 2016, that number was
down to just 37%. The number of African Americans
in the city who are not in the workforce is up too, from 32% in 1970 to 36% in 2016. But unemployment overall has
dropped from 12.6% in 1970 to 7.6% two years ago. Graduation rates paint an
optimistic picture as well. At the college level,
going from just 3% to 15, and at the high school level from 31% to 85. Yet Kansas City Public
School remain unaccredited. Finding quality affordable
housing is still a challenge. And the unemployment
rate is still higher for African Americans than it
is for white Kansas citizens. What lessons can we learn
from these riots 50 years ago? Why does it matter today? – The lessons that
can be learned is that when you have
disaffected people and you do not
address their concerns over a period of time in
a way that’s constructive, you are going to
have more riots. It’s just that simple. When you have situations
where people feel that they have no
recourse and no hope, they’ll take to the streets
and start burning stuff up. – Once again, young
people are taking the lead on a movement to enact change. On March 24th, thousands
gathered at Theis Park for the March For
Our Lives protest pushing for gun reform. The local rally,
organized in part, by some of the Lincoln
College Prep seniors, who staged a walk out of
their own on March 14th. We wanted to know how they feel about their fellow alum
walking out 50 years ago. – [Student] I’m pressed
by not surprised. – Exactly, I feel like it’s
a Lincoln trait that we have. – That’s wild. I feel like we could do that but knowing that they did
that without any cell phones. They organized that
themselves, that’s wild to me. It makes me really proud. – [Kardya] Proud. – Knowing that these
kids were our age and they’re doing
big things like that. – And it started at our school. – Yeah. – The major change that
always happens is when a new generation
with different ideals or different beliefs
on what should be done comes in and creates change. – [Shayne] We’re always
thinking about stuff like that. – [Danielle] Every
issue that America has, the youth should have
some type of input on it because we are the ones
who will the consequences and the repercussions
whether good or bad. – This was 50 years ago. Why is this important? Why are we even
talking about this now? It’s ancient history. – Because America
has never dealt with the issue of race in America. (soulful music) – [Student] We’re
in a climate today that I think is much worse
than we were 50 years ago. – You know racism
has kind of grown up, put a suit and tie on. – We have a serious,
serious problem in that people believe
that it’s all over and that inhibits us
from making it better. – How do we make it better? – Well we make it better
by people recognizing first of all that
this is not nirvana. We have not reached perfection
on the issue of race. – [Dia] In many ways,
we are still divided. – Mostly white
Americans see the 60s as a time of decline
for the United States, when we lost our way, when people became
disrespectful of law and order and lost a certain
amount of patriotism. But by and large,
African-Americans see the 60s as a
very redemptive time. – Black people in fact had
been amazingly patient. How they kept it under
control in that era is hard to figure out. – [Dia] In the five
decades since the 1968 riot some things have
changed dramatically. – The people in Kansas
City really ought to feel pretty good about
things they’ve done. We had a fire chief,
a police chief. We had black superintendents. We’ve had a black chair
of the chamber of commerce and it goes on and on and on. – [Dia] Recent
protest in Kansas City have all stayed peaceful. – [Mayor James] Fortunately
we’ve got a police department that’s been pretty
good about protests and how they’ve responded. – [Dia] But in other areas
there’s still room to improve. – Some of the same
issues we faced in 1968 that were the crux of the
rioting around this nation, to a degree still exist
in urban America today. – We’ve got to think about
economic development. We have to think about education and we have to
think about housing. – But I also think that
on a governmental level we have to enact
policies and recognize that there are differences and that some things
have been done in order perpetuate a bad system and we have to create policies
that address those issues. – [Dia] Then lean in to people
who are different than you. – Just because we’re
black doesn’t mean that we know everything
about the tensions between black and white. We have to be willing to learn. – [Dia] 50 years later,
do you look back at 1968 and say that it was worth it? – [Al] Oh sure, it was worth it. – Oh heck yeah. – It was worth it and
it wasn’t worth it because again to this day
that has not come back. – I don’t advocate
riots and confrontation, but it does raise
the consciousness. – [Dia] KMBC cameras
caught the aftermath. – [Dr. Rhodes] I think
it succeeded in that there was a certain
renewed commitment to these problems that obviously shaped a lot of people’s lives. – If you knew in 1968 what
you know now about that riot when they called you
out of this church what would you have
told those kids? – Let’s go to city hall. – What started as a story
about a student protest became the story of Kansas City, and really our nation. One group blind to
the needs of another and chaos because of it. 50 years later we’re
having the same debate and the same problems
in our communities. It’s been over 18,000
days since April 9, 1968. Let’s not waste one more
allowing our difference to divide us. I’m Dia Wall. Thanks to Kansas City
Public Television for collaborating with
us on this project., as well as the UMKC
LaBuddie Collection and the Kansas City
Public Library. And thank you for watching ’68: The Kansas City
Race Riots Then and Now. (dramatic music) – Ladies and gentlemen,
hello I’m Nick Haines. Did we learn the lessons
of the riots of 1968? The rioters spoke loudly. Where they heard? In August of last
year, Dia Wall, report and anchor of Channel 41 emailed me and said, “Nick
would KCPT be willing “to partner with Channel
41 in telling the story “of the Kansas City riots?” Dia Wall by the way is
right here in the front. The person who is the brain
child for the project. (audience applause) The biggest surprise for
you in doing this project Dia was what? – How many of the issues that
were the cause of the riots, according to this report
that was issued in 1968, we’re still talking about
today 50 years later. – Dia you’re going to
be taking questions from our audience tonight
because we really want to engage you in this conversation. But we have others who
you saw in the film who are engaging tonight. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver
moved to Kansas City in 1968. A decade later he would be
elected to the city council and two decades later become
the city’s first black mayor. (audience applause) Our current Mayor Sly James was coming home from an
after school job 50 years ago when the riots began. At a National Guard checkpoint he was forced out of his
car and onto the pavement. (audience applause) Former City Councilman
and the founder of Ad Hoc Group against
Crime, Alvin Brooks, was a Kansas City school
district administrator when the riots broke out. (audience applause) He was one of the many civil
rights and religious leaders who joined the student protest and marched with them to
the steps of City Hall. Clarence Gibson was a fresh
faced police officer back then. He had a point blank perspective on what has happening as
he stood on the police line wearing a gas mask
as tear gas flew. Thank you for being
with us Mr. Gibson. (audience applause) In 1968 Linda Spence
felt the tear gas as a student at
Central High School which helped lead
the student walkout. (audience applause) And Dr. Joel Rhodes is a Southeast Missouri State
University historian who has conducted some of
the most extensive research into this violent chapter
in our local history. Thank you all for being with us. (audience applause) Now we were told in the
film that there were hundreds of disturbances
all across the country, that is true. But feel Joel Rhodes,
were as violent and with as many
injuries as Kansas City. – There are more riots
in the United States in the immediate days
after King’s assassination than in the entire
year of 1967 combined. Aside from Washington,
D.C. and Chicago, Kansas City’s was as
deadly and as volatile as any in the country. – Now we like to say
that there was no effort in Kansas City to allow
people, the students, to memorialize Dr. King on
his funeral on April 9th. But there was an
effort to do so, there was a one minute
observance, Sly James, in Kansas City schools
that they permitted. That wasn’t
considered sufficient. – No, it wasn’t sufficient
because it didn’t come close to capturing the gravity of
the situation or the loss. It was tokenism in
its earliest form. – 50 years on Emanuel Cleaver,
have we learned the lessons of the 1968 riots? – No, I was in Ferguson
on the second day and it looked like tanks were rolling down a street in Iraq, one of
the Iraqi cities. It was difficult to
believe that this was a little town of 20,000 people. Troops from all over, it was
one of the most intimidating things that most people
in the generation was out on the
streets had ever seen. They knew nothing
about the riots. – You say in the
film, Mayor Sly James, if you don’t address the
concern of disaffected people you’re going to have a riot. But 50 years have taken place, we haven’t had a riot
like this before, have we never risen to that
level of disaffection again in Kansas City? – I don’t know if I’d
say we haven’t risen to the level of disaffection, but I don’t know that
we’ve had the sparks to light the powder keg. The death of Martin Luther
King was a seminal event and it was something
that charged the already latten anger and
made it very active. I can’t say that we’ve had
the same type of atmosphere that would charge it but I
don’t necessarily think that that means that all it good. Schools are still in the
shape that they’re in in terms of their
segregated nature. Jobs are still
harder to come by. Neighborhoods are
still suffering. So I can’t tell you that
it won’t happen again, but the problem is
is that this country is not equipped
politically to deal with the chronic problems
of the country. In order to deal
with chronic issues you have to have sustainability
and sustainable solutions. We don’t have one. (audience applause) – It’s easy to look back
and recall with horror at these scenes,
but Clarence Gibson, who just by the way
just retired this month from the Kansas City,
Missouri Police Department. The last remaining police
officer who was there during the riot of 1968, but you say, “You can’t
judge those officers in 1968 “by today’s standards.” What was different? – We were dealing with guys
who were World War II’s mindset was a lot different than
guys my age at the time who had just come
back from Vietnam. And there were old
timers out there and I mean there was
anger among them. More so than a lot
of the young guys, but I just think it had to
do with their backgrounds more than anything else. – We had an email from a police
officer who was there too now living in the
Ozarks, his name is Jim. And he writes, “Rioters
made the mistake “of confronting our
lines which were full of “returned Vietnam vets,
and we were commanded by “World War II veteran officers. “They picked the wrong
generation to try and screw over “so we kicked some butt.” – Leadership matters,
fast forward to 1992, after Rodney King, the officers
in the Rodney King beating were acquitted, about 400
people gathered on Brush Creek and she may even be here
tonight, but Carroll Coke called me in the
mayors office and said there’s a large crowd gathering, there are about 400 people
and they’re still coming. We’re getting ready
to march to the plaza. And she said you
need to get out here. So the police
office drove me out. The difference in what
happened with Mayor Davis and the response from the
police chief at the time, Clarence Kelly, Steve Bishop
and I were on the phone and talking about the fact
that we should not have any police going out there. We didn’t need the
helicopter flying above and he agreed. And that was step one in preventing something
from happening. Because if police had come out we would have had a problem. (audience applause) – We also view this as
a very specific area of Kansas City that
was effected by this. We note going through
the historic record that during the riot
over the state line Johnson county officials
declare a state of emergency. What were they afraid
was going to happen historian Joel Rhodes? (audience laughing) – Well in fairness
when Mayor Davis asked for a state of emergency
on the first night he asked all the surrounding
suburbs to follow suit and Johnson county did that. The short answer is the
plaza is the main concern and when the first
reinforcements of
the National Guard are deployed, they are
deployed in the plaza. There is a concern that
the riot will spill over into this district. And you could not travel
into Johnson county without providing
the police department proof that you lived there
or you were employed there. – [Nick] Alvin Brooks? – One of the captains came out and told the business man
at a meeting in the plaza, it was reported in Star, “You don’t worry we’ve got
them contained down there.” The same thing at
31st and Troost, that same captain made the
statement to the business man around 31st and Troost, “Don’t worry about it
we have them contained.” That was the mentality. That not only, Kansas
City was just a microcosm of what America was all about. – You say in the film
Congressmen Cleaver that people didn’t want to,
if they went west of Troost that was death. – Absolutely. As long as they stayed in
the negro neighborhoods things were okay. I mean even if they
were looting or burning but it was crossing
that Mason Dixon line and getting close to the plaza. That was the thing that I
was afraid of decades later and I’m not sure
that it’s changed
dramatically differently. (audience applause) – Did any positive change occur
as a result of these riots? Did the riots actually
make any conditions better? – I’m not sure how
they would have made the conditions better when those
conditions remain the same. The conditions that led to
the riots still exist today. Those conditions won’t
change until we have the ability to engage
in sustainable addresses of the problems that are there. The war on poverty
was an abject failure like the war on drugs. And we ought to stop
going to war with it and start finding a away to
collaborate with it and fix it. (audience applause) – Alvin Brooks? – One thing did happen, public
accommodations has passed. I am convinced that
in April of 1968, if it had not been for the riots the white community would not
have passed the ordinance. When that referendum comes they
would have voted against it. That was one thing
I’m convinced. The kids are responsible
for the passage of the emergency measure establishing
fair housing in Kansas City. (audience applause) – The mass commission
report comes out with more than 40
recommendations. A lot of them
involving the police. There weren’t enough police
is one recommendation. We need more. They were too underpaid,
they need better pay, and they need to be
far more representative of the community they serve. 7% of the police officers back in 1968 were African
Americans, 7%. I did look today, we’re
at over 12% today. That is some progress, Linda,
you’re not too convinced. (Linda laughing) That is progress. Mayor you are on the
police commission. – Yes, and? (audience laughing) – So 7 to 12% wasn’t a
big enough impact for you? – No, the, no. The police department should
look like the community it serves. (audience applause) Which is one reason why
when I hear the drum beat of some of the officers wanting
to be able to live outside of Kansas City and
still police this city I am so admittedly,
completely, and irretrievably opposed to that. (audience applause) the way I look at
it is very simple, if you can’t live in the city
you can’t police the city. (audience applause) And I don’t want to make this
a beat on the police situation because there are a
lot of police officers in this city who try very
hard to do the right thing. The problem is that
we still lag behind on basic, basic
understandings about people. There has to be a
connection between the community and the police. And right now it’s better
but it is not fixed. – Clarence Gibson? – I agree with him 100%. We have foot beat officers
downtown in the businesses and I’ve argued why don’t
we put foot beat officers in the community, communicate
with the community and build up a relationship. – What was the response to
that when you were saying that? (Clarence and audience laughing) – I remember when they had
a model city’s program. We had something called
a pinpoint patrol and I volunteered for that. We walked two man foot
beats over on the west side and I did a year over on
31st and Prospect area. We had what they call
discretionary enforcement. We would handle things
without taking them to jail. But the whole idea was most
people do not deal with the police unless they’re being
arrested, getting a ticket, some distraught
situation, somebody’s died or something like that. As a foot beat officer
you’re going into doors of each of the businesses. You’re talking to people. You know people. I don’t know how many
times on the west side, “Hey Gibson, Campbell
having tacos come on in.” But we were part of their, we
were their cops in their mind. We were their cops. We weren’t the other cops. – Even though the goals that
you would like to see happen haven’t taken place, did
though, the 1968 riots improve the nature of
policing in Kansas City. – No, I think that’s
fairly clear here, and there is a testimony
in the mayor’s commission that didn’t make it into
that report that I think speaks to this perfectly. It said until J.C.
Nicholas advertises in the Kansas City call nothing
is going to change. (audience applause) – We also want to hear from you. Dia Wall will be
taking your questions. She’ll have a mic over here
and you can come to her, and she will engage
you in pithy, not huge long
political statements. But if you can have
great questions in about 20, 30 seconds or so. Linda Spence? – I just want to dove tail
on what they’ve been saying about police becoming
better or whatever because recently in
the state of Missouri we’ve passed a law
that a police officer doesn’t have to be any
further than high school. Okay, not that’s not good. – I think the report
addressed that that the police
weren’t paid enough. – Federal government
has a responsibility. When I was doing
my term as mayor, we were able to get
community policing grants. But the problem with the
community policing grants is that the government
would do it for, I can’t remember,
three or four years and then the local
department would have to assume the full cost. Most police stations in the
United States can’t do that. And so, if the
federal government is
going to bail out of everything we’re going
to have major problems and that’s exactly
what we are seeing. – Alrighty I have
lots more questions, but I want to hear from Dia Wall who has lots of
questions from you. – This is Steve Patten. – My question is, what regular
troops seriously considered or put on alert for
deployment into Kansas City? Does anybody know that. – No, not to my understanding. – We had though, there were
over 1,000 National Guardsmen. – There were and some
of the units came from Carthage in Joplin, which
is an interesting dynamic to bring white troops from
the Ozarks into Kansas City. (audience laughing) – Jeff Lewis. – I wondered if you all
have been uplifted recently by the movements of
the young people, particularly high school
and college age people, not just in Florida but
also all around the country? – Having been a student at
that time I feel their pain. And yes, I’m very uplifted. I posted something on Facebook, I told them keep
going and I’ll follow. – When I asked, were there
any benefits in the long run you said very little
progress had been made. So does that take away
from the value of protest. – I don’t want anybody
to get the impression that we’re saying that
there’s been no progress. I mean the fact that
Brooks, James, Cleaver, is sitting up here
is a very clear sign that we have had progress. There’s no question about it. – I’m going to roll in two questions that
we got from Facebook since we’re streaming. So what’s up, to our online
and social media audience. Erin from Facebook
Live wants to know how much does community
policing cost? And Robert wants to know, what’s the legal alternative
to violent protest and how to best go about it? – Community policing
means you have to take police officers out of the car. We have 318 square miles, if you put a large contingency
of officers walking a lot of that mileage is
not going to be covered. So I’m saying that community
policing means a lot more police officers than we
have with 1,400 we have now. – How would you feel about
a large police budget to accommodate that Mayor James? – Every year I’ve been in
office that police budget has gone up, we are
obligated understate law to give 20% of our general
fund, we’re closer to 40,41,42%, So there’s money, but I
disagree that everything comes down to the
number of officers. When I’m told that we
need more officers, and my question is to do what? Because just putting
people on there doesn’t necessarily
solve the problem. – Do you agree with
that Clarence Gibson? – Yes. (audience laughing) – Great, pithy and insightful. Dia Wall? – [Dia] Rebecca Davis. – We’re saying that part
of the cause of the riot had to do with the lack of
commemoration and respect for Dr. King after his death. What is Kansas City planning
on doing 50 years on for that same type
of commemoration? – The ugly side of that is that we’ve been struggling in
Kansas City for the last year a little over a year, trying
to get a Martin Luther King street or boulevard or road. We’re the only city
in the United States, only city in the United States, over 12,000 that
doesn’t have a street named Martin Luther King. – But back to the whole
issue of commemorating, in the film we saw the films
of the six people who died, but there is nowhere in
Kansas City that anyway honors or remembers that
period in our history. – To answer your question,
there’s no central location where any recognition was
given to those six persons who were murdered
during the riots of ’68. – It’s been said too
there are parts of Kansas City, Missouri that
have never been improved upon since 1968, really? – You can drive down
31st Street today. I mean there’s signs
still very present, Prospect, that would
speak very eloquently to the fact that scars remain. The fires have gone out
but the scars remain. – Dr. Rhodes. – And to answer Dia’s question, I think the Facebook
question about is there an alternative to this. That’s the million
dollar question because you can change foreign
policy into war, you can pass legislation
to change gun laws, but how do you deal
with white flags? Who do you deal with
underemployment, unemployment,
segregated schools? These are beyond legislation, you can’t legislate
those and so again, what form of protest works? – [Dia] Stacy Webb. – What do you speculate
are the reason why that we don’t have a more
racially representative make up? – Linda? – Well quite naturally because
most African Americans males have be adjudicated. So they’ve got records. – [Congressmen Cleaver]
Not most, not most. – Well not most but quite a few. (audience laughing) – There’s three of us up here. (audience laughing) I don’t know about him. – I’ll give you that, but
a shot out to my grandson who did graduate with
a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice
and does serve on the Kansas City Missouri
Police Department and he’s a very good officer. Grandma has to say it, but
I mean you would say so too. But that’s the thing,
it’s about the fact that we don’t have that
many who would qualify. – I think that some of what
Linda says is certainly part of the reason,
but I also think that it’s basically systemic racism. (audience applause) And I want to be clear here, I really want to be clear
because I do not want to paint every police officer
in this light because it is
absolutely not true. But the bottom line is
you don’t have the number of police officers of
color just like we don’t have the number of
business people of color, teachers of color,
CEOs of color, woman because there are certain
things that have become so institutionalized as
being white male dominated. Police departments
are often like that. The other thing too is that
we have more African Americans trying to get into
the police department. The problem is once they
get there there’s retention. It’s easier to recruit
than it is to retain, and it’s very simple. You can make a very big effort to go out and find
people of color to come join the
police department but if they come
into an organization
that is uncomfortable for them they are
going to leave. And we see that
time and time again. (audience applause) – [Nick] Alvin Brooks? – It’s a matter of past history and we as adults remember
that history, 1968. I’m the, almost the oldest here. – Almost? (audience laughing) – I was a police officer
in the 50s and 60s, and I knew at that time
that they never got any more than one or two
black officers in any class. I came out, my class
was the 44th class. Came out in June 1, 1954, I was the only black of 27. The next class had two. And it hasn’t been much
better than that since. (audience applause) – There’s another reason too. The community does not
encourage African American boys to join the
police department. And people who are African
Americans police officers often find themselves in
conflict with the community. There’s still tension
between the African American community and police. And if you’re a
black police officer that tension takes
on a different form. – Clarence Gibson was
that your perspective? – I don’t see the powers
above being racism and saying, “Get
rid of these guys.” I don’t see that, we had our
first black police chief. We get a lot of good kids,
African American in there and we have some
going all the way up. But the retention
is the big problem. – I want to go back to the
questions in just a second. But the riots themselves
on April 9, 1968, was not just one day. This took place, first of
all, over multiple days right Dr. Rhodes. – Four days. – The violence here, yes. – How did it all come to an end? Was there a compromise reached? – No, I think with actually
most all of the riots two things happened,
you cannot sustain this over a period of time and
in the case of Kansas City it got cold. The temperature
physically got colder and what you see sociologically is that will
generally end riots. – [Nick] Congressman Cleaver. – I don’t think any
of the riots ended whether it was in Kansas
City or any place else because people sat down
at a table and said, “We will end the riot
at 3:30 tomorrow.” I think they play out. They run out after people
have made their statements and so forth, but I want
to go back very quickly to something that
Alvin Brooks said because it’s important. It goes to the question
about why we can’t get African Americans on
the police department or interested in it. And he said, history, if you
grew up where I did in Texas, and the same was here, we
had two black police officers and one was Mr.
Jesson and Mr. Boyd, I still remember them. And they could only
arrest black people. Now if they arrested
a white person they had to try to get him
or her to stay there until, no, I’m not making this up. (audience laughing) – [Linda] You can’t,
you can’t make this up. – If they could get
them to stay there then a white officer would
come in and arrest them. – [Mayor James] Maybe. – Alvin Brooks I
understand that you also as an African American
police officer yourself, was told you could only
police certain areas. – When I came on in 1954,
there were only two areas in this city that
we could patrol, 12th to 23rd, Troost to Paseo, 12th to 23rd, Paseo to Brooklyn. That was it. – Thank you very much. Dia Wall, more questions. – 12 year old Skylar Anderson. – [Nick] We’re thrilled
to have you here Skylar. – My question is why
are they so afraid of black youth using their voices? (audience applause) – Look there’s fear
of youth period. – Right. – All you have to do is
have seen what happened here and what happened in Washington with all of the young people. And it was a diverse crowd,
black, brown, white marching. It’s young people, but it’s
important to understand Alexander the Great
was 22 years old when he conquered the world. Change is brought
about by young people who get out and
make things happen. Martin Luther King
was 26 years old when he came out to
become the president of the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference in Montgomery, Alabama. And if you look at the
civil right movement these were all young
people in their 20s. The way things go is that
young people save the country. They save the country. We need you. (audience applause) – When you look at the
current March For Our Lives, there were concerns. You saw it in some places that these really
weren’t student lead, there were other involved. When we look at the
mayor’s commission, they asked people, white
people thought the single most important cause
of the disturbance was radical leaders
and instigators. While the second choice
was just wanted to destroy. So we look at it today and say why is it that we were so
afraid of those young voices. There were other fears
at that time Dr. Rhodes. – Well generally
it’s very comforting for a community to say, “Well our African American
population was happy. “It must have been
outside agitators.” That came up in every city. It came up in every
college campus. And the mayor’s commission
also found that only 1% of the African American
community rioted. That to me doesn’t
make any sense. There were about 112,000
African Americans in Kansas City at the time. They arrest right
at 1,000 people. So they arrested every rioter? That doesn’t make sense. I think participation
was much broader than what the mayor’s
commission led on and it was young people. The average person arrested
was between 17 and 24. – [Nick] Dia Wall. – We’ve got another question
from our social media audience, so thanks to all the
people tuning in. How can we help new
small businesses start on Troost and Prospect,
that’s coming from Lamont. – There’s a couple of
things that are going on Troost and Prospect. There’s been a lot of
capital and resources poured into Troost. One of the catalyst is the
urban neighborhood initiative of the chamber. The issue with starting
a business ultimately comes down to the capital
to get a business started. We still have
issues with banking and lending and redlining. And if you can’t get
capital it’s hard to get a business started. – Dia Wall. – [Dia] Debra Parmet. – I have one really
brief comment before
I ask my question. And it goes to what can
you do that’s not violent to change things and it’s vote. My question relates
to the idea of police living in the community. I agree with that, but
shouldn’t it be true for every city employee because
if they work for the city but they don’t live
here they’re not vested. – They do, if we hire
somebody that comes from outside the city they have six
months to move into the city. And if they don’t
they lose their job. – We’re going to take
one more question. Because I want to be
respectful of people’s time. – [Dia] All right
this is Preston. – As long as you have judges
that circumventing the law and not doing the things
they supposed to do we’re going to constantly
have the conflict we have. We are going to have to
do what Martin Luther King and all those leaders did, we’re going to have to
go into the courtrooms. (audience applause) – Emanuel Cleaver. – First of all I grew up in the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, I’m not aware of Martin
Luther King going into court except when he was
indicted on a $132. I don’t know about filing a lot, they didn’t have any money. Dr. King didn’t
have enough money to pay for his own funeral. Harry Belafonte paid for it. But it’s important
for you to understand that if you want good
judges it goes back to what the lady said
earlier you have to vote. We saw something unprecedented. You have to vote. (audience applause) – Let me ask your opinion then, biggest lesson of 50 years ago. Which again seems
so hard to believe and for many people it may
seem like ancient news. The biggest lesson
for you Alvin Brooks? – This is not a
black/white kind of thing. It’s an American dilemma. And again, Kansas
City is a microcosm of what America’s all about. And if we’re to have moved
from point A to point B it has to be together. – [Nick] To our historian
Dr. Joel Rhodes? – Most Americans still see
this as a zero sum equation that if somebody gets something
it has to be taken away from somebody and this
country is rich enough, is powerful enough, we can
take care of these problems if we will sit down and come
up with sustainable solutions. – Kansas City Mayor Sly James? – I firmly believe
that the first step that everybody in
this room can take is to establish some
personal relationships with people that
don’t look like you. It would be very
helpful, very helpful if we could get
to know each other and understand that
the stereotypes that we’ve had imprinted on
our brains are simply not true. You cannot do that by simply
working with a black guy or working with a white guy and everybody going
back to their individual segregated corners at night. The relationships
have to expand. Out of those relationships
coming groups. Out of groups come movements. Out of movements comes change. – Linda Spence. – By the time I was 18 Martin
Luther King was assassinated. At that time I had a
six month old baby, and my thing was
what kind of a world am I bringing my son into? And so for me it
became a matter of if I want change I’m going
to have to be the change. And I’ve worked towards
that ever since. I’m not a master
level social worker. – Kansas City Congressman
Emanuel Cleaver. – Well I think the riot
should have taught us that change and betterment
can never be achieved in one single event. That it has to be
continually won over and over and over again. On each new movement we get
better and better and better. We made some progress,
we have to continue. We need that little young lady. We need her.
– We need her. Yes, yes. – On the police line in
1968, Clarence Gibson. – That is not a way
to solve problems for a lot of folks
because there was people who dead in the riots
that may still be alive. And who might have
been that one person who’d be sitting in
the mayor’s chair or the congressman’s chair. These riots throughout
the country kill a lot of young folks. These could have been the
youngsters who could have made the changes, another Martin
Luther King something like that. – Ladies and
gentlemen, our panel. (audience applause) On behalf of KCPT and our
friends at channel 41, and Dia Wall, who
made it all happen. We thank you so very much. Thank you so much to our
partners in the library who amplify all of our
efforts in a great way. And we thank you for
coming out tonight. Good night. (audience applause) (dramatic music)

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