KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This city
earned a reputation for mellowness after 800,000 people turned out in early November to celebrate the Royals’ World Series win — and local police made just three arrests.
Still, outside a Donald Trump rally here on Saturday night, four people were arrested and police used pepper spray twice on a crowd of around 200 protesters outside the historic theater where he was speaking, just blocks away from the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship game.
“@kcpolice used short burst of fogger to disperse two large groups (200+) preparing to fight,” tweeted Kansas City Police chief Darryl Forte. “Excellent preventive measure. Maintained order.”
Later, Forte responded to another tweet questioning that decision. “There’s been no riot in our city. Most in downtown area lawfully expressed themselves while lawfully assembling.”
Neither Trump supporters nor protesters at his rally here on Saturday night seemed particularly worried about the potential for violence.
“I know my city,” said Melissa Shasmeen Glenn, who was calmly protesting outside the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland where he spoke.
A number of protesters said they felt they had to come, to express their dismay and frustration with the billionaire businessman. “I wanted to make a stand against the rhetoric Donald Trump is spreading,” said Sarah Craig, an Air Force veteran. “He’s the most divisive candidate we’ve ever had. He’s not good for America.”
“Donald Trump is inciting violence,” said Tiffany McFadden, another protester. “He’s against everyone who’s not part of the 1 percent, who’s not rich, white and male.”
Earlier in the day, after a man tried to get on stage at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, Trump told the crowd, “
These are bad, bad people, and we’re going to take our country back from these people.” And on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Trump said he might pay the legal fees of the 78-year-old Trump supporter charged with assault and disorderly conduct after videos showed him sucker-punching a young African American protester at a rally in North Carolina.
Trump told moderator Chuck Todd that the man “obviously loves his country, and maybe he doesn’t like seeing what’s happening to the country.”
In Kansas City, several dozen protesters infiltrated the audience inside the Midland where they interrupted Trump’s remarks at least 10 times. A
family from Lee’s Summit, Mo., said three people sitting in the row behind them stood up during the candidate’s speech and held up anti-Trump signs.
“They looked normal,” said Rob Steinbeck, adding that he’d talked with them earlier to make sure he wasn’t blocking their view.
Steinbeck was convinced that someone must have been paying the protesters, and that they must be from somewhere else, and noted that he’d seen a van with Illinois license plates covered with anti-Trump slogans.
Before Trump took the stage, the audience of around 2,000 was advised not to touch or interact with any protesters who might be present but to start chanting, “Trump, Trump, Trump” and wait for police or Secret Service agents to escort them out.
Soon after Trump began speaking, protesters began popping up like jack-in-the-boxes.
“Where are these people coming from?” asked the candidate, who
blamed Bernie Sanders supporters, alleging that they were holding professionally made signs in support of the Democratic candidate. He’s “a lousy senator” who “didn’t do a damned thing” in the Senate, Trump said.
He called the protesters “disrupters” and as
the interruptions continued, became more and more visibly frustrated: “I hope they arrest these people. From now on I’m filing charges.”
Trump praised the Secret Service agents for their quick response earlier in Dayton, Ohio, and claimed that the man who’d charged the stage there “could” be linked to ISIS, though he didn’t say that was the case.
Then he went back to explaining his support of the torture known as waterboarding, and he pleaded with people to vote Tuesday in Missouri’s primary.
By the time the rally ended, the crowd of protesters outside had gotten much younger and
angrier than earlier protesters. “F— Trump is what I want to say,” said one.
Andres Herrera and Kevin Bailey of the Progressive Youth Organization said their group had instigated the Facebook event “Trump Out of KC!” and had hoped to get the candidate to cancel his rally, as he had in Chicago on Friday.
But that didn’t happen, and about an hour after the rally ended, the crowd began to disperse.
Beau Brayfield, who said he works full-time in IT and also goes to school, said he had been among the protesters pepper sprayed, “but it wasn’t too bad.” He was carrying a couple of garbage bags, looking for a dumpster.
Yes, he and other protesters had picked up the drink cups and other garbage left behind on the sidewalk.
“The cops thanked us for picking up the trash,” he said.
Diana Reese is an award-winning freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter at @DianaReese.
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