Wichita Comes Together With Cookout as Nation Tries to Heal After Tragedies
The Wichita, Kansas, community came together on Sunday to forge a closer relationship amid a string of recent tragedies.
Initially, Black Lives Matter protesters had planned a march on Sunday, but after organizers met with Police Chief Gordon Ramsay for several hours, they decided to have a community cookout to “break bread” together instead, according to a Facebook post by the Wichita Eagle.
They called the event “First Steps Community Cookout,” and officers from police, sheriff, and highway patrol joined in the festivities at McAdams Park—eating, dancing, and playing games with the public.
Chief Ramsay spoke at the event and said his department is looking at taking three specific steps to improve the way police operate, via a Facebook Live video. First, was to support the use of an external review of police shootings by an external prosecutor. Second, the department will increase transparency around complaints and allow for civilian review and training recommendations. Third, is to have cultural competency and diversity training.
A.J. Bohannon, who wanted to organize the protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, said the cookout became more meaningful after hearing about the three officers who were fatally shot in Baton Rouge that morning, according to KMUW.
“We can get on the same page and say those things that are in Baton Rouge don’t trickle over into Wichita, Kansas,” Bohannan told KMUW. “My heart goes out to the families, those officers in Baton Rouge, but I think the fact that that did happen makes this event more meaningful. I definitely think this is a start for this community, and I definitely want to keep it going.”
The police department posted photos and videos from the cookout on its Facebook page.
Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell took to Twitter on Monday, saying the cookout was so big, it had superseded the gossip about Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian on Twitter’s trending topics.
— Jeff Longwell (@jefflongwellict) July 18, 2016
Facebook users expressed their appreciation for both police officers and the public. Most believed that coming together is the solution—especially as tensions have heightened between the two parties over the past few weeks.
“This is how problems get solved and stuff gets done. People coming together to have a conversation, to understand each other’s perspectives is how we move forward and address any problems that we are dealing with,” wrote a Facebook user.
“BLM, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, law enforcement, business owners, stay at home parents—it doesn’t matter who you are—you came together. If only for a day as a community to look for solutions, talk, break bread, and find a way to stop the killing because this is not who we are. Wichita has made Americans proud. God bless you all,” wrote another.