Protestors against police brutality gather outside Monticello Library

Approximately 100 protestors, including students and politicians, assembled outside the building amid a national wave of outrage over the killing of George Floyd

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By Hannah Chern

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, Shawnee community members gathered at Monticello Library Sunday, June 14 to protest against police brutality. Nearly 100 civilians participated in the protest, holding up signs and shouting chants to cars passing by.

Ben Wieland and Tanner Smith

Chanting Black Lives Matter and repeating the names of Black people killed by police officers, approximately 100 protestors gathered outside Monticello Library to protest police brutality during the early afternoon Sunday, June 14. 

The protest, organized by seventh grader Nate Petrowsky and his family, featured state and local politicians alongside participants from all around the community calling for change. 

Holding signs and shouting chants, families gather on the sidewalk along Hilltop Drive to share a message to drivers. (By Hannah Chern)

One such politician, who spent her time at the protest speaking to community members about what they’d like to see, was Shawnee city council member Lisa Larson-Bunnell. She outlined the internal discussions with Shawnee police and expressed optimism about the city’s ability to meet the demands of protestors. 

“The police department has already been thinking about a lot of changes to make steps towards some of the demands that are now being made by movements such as Eight Can’t Wait and the NAACP. That is wonderful,” Larson-Bunnell said. “What I want to see come out of this movement is that we not squander this opportunity. There are a lot of people right now making very specific demands to me. Now, we have to go through the process of figuring out which of these demands make sense for our community.”

A majority of the protestors gathered were White — which, to Shannon Russo, a White mother who brought her 12-year-old daughter Bailey Cook to protest, is meaningful and important. 

“If we don’t speak up when we can speak up for people, then they’re not going to be heard. They haven’t been heard,” Russo said.

Cook attended because of her personal experiences at school, watching friends and fellow students suffer racial harassment. 

“I’m here because of my friends,” Cook said. “I’ve watched some of my friends be made fun of because of their skin color.” 

If we don’t speak up when we can speak up for people, then they’re not going to be heard.”

— Shannon Russo

Petrowsky, the protest’s organizer, echoed these calls for unity and solidarity with the Black community in Shawnee and across America. 

“[My mom] raised me to be an advocate for people who are disadvantaged and people who are oppressed, and I just think it’s horrible that we’re killing people and hurting people and treating people differently in a negative way because of the color of their skin,” Petrowsky said. “I’d like to see more people care about this stuff and take an interest in this stuff, even if it’s not affecting them personally.”

Les Lampe, a candidate for the Kansas House of Representatives who was in attendance, believes that police brutality should be a bipartisan issue of justice that everyone can agree on.

“It’s just a matter of justice. There’s a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and it says silence in the face of evil is itself evil. And so if you’re silent, when there’s injustice going on, you’re a participant in evil,” Lampe said. “You need to look at what’s happening within your society, where there’s systemic racism and injustice going on, and try to address that. Laws like you can’t use the chokehold, you can’t kneel on somebody’s neck, those kinds of things are appropriate to look at.”

Russo summarized her frustration with the political system’s inaction that drove her to protest and call for action. 

“I think that for too long we’ve seen violence against African-American men and women,” Russo said. “At this point, there’s really no other option for us but to protest.”

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