Protests over police brutality in Minneapolis reach Hays

Posted Jun 01, 2020 6:01 AM


As protests across the country continue after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, over 100 people gathered at the intersection 27th and Vine in Hays on Sunday afternoon holding signs of support for an end to perceived police brutality and race inequality.

The protestors were mostly met with peace signs and honks of support as they stood peacefully lining both sides of 27th Street — all the while cities across the U.S. fight grappled with mass looting and violence.

While many at the rally acknowledge Hays might be better than other locations across the country, they said racial inequality still occurs locally.

"Being here in college at Fort Hays, and my wife working at Fort Hays, I have experienced racial injustice," Demetrius Chance said.

He said the protest was not to incite unrest but to acknowledge the situation.

"The one thing with the rhetoric people are saying, 'It's black against white.' It's not ... it's black against all cops. It's not," Chance said. "We are just speaking out piece against police brutality. It's a matter of justice for people."

He said he was suprised by such a strong turnout, which he said offers clear depiction of the situation.

"We are seeing people drive by, flipping people off just for standing up for a cause. So it's showing that — as much as we said or that we believe — that Hays is a perfect place, there are still injustices that are going on. There is still racism here." Chance said.

He called the moment bittersweet with so many people supporting the cause, but others fighting against it.

"Me being the father of black kids, I have to go home and explain to my son, 'This is how you handle police,' " Chance said.

He said perceived racism by police and residents of Hays is difficult, but often kept quiet and was glad the conversations were becoming public and being thrust into the spotlight.

Chance is originally from North Carolina and watched overnight Saturday as riots broke out.

"I understand people are angry. People are upset," he said. "I'm furious, but going out here and destroying buildings is not going to solve anything. It's only going to continue the back-and-forth rhetoric that 'black people are animals.' "

So, for him, the Hays protest was different.

"Going out here, I am not going to give them what they want," he said. "There is no point. It's going to come down to understanding and conversation. These are the issues and how do we deal with it as a society on the whole versus this person against this person or this race against this race."

The message of Sunday's protest, he said, was simple.

"Black people just want to be treated equally and favorably," Chance said.

While the protest continued through the afternoon, offers of water and food were given. Many of the protestors engaged favorably with the local law enforcement presence on the scene, including Hays Chief of Police Don Scheibler.

"I am grateful for the people that came out," Scheibler said. "It's the only way change can happen by standing up and saying there is a problem."

He said he understands that, nationally, Americans and police can do better.

"I appreciate these folks coming out and recognizing with police brutality we can do better as a society," Scheibler said.

But not everyone felt the protest was good for the community.

A few trucks with American and Blue Lives Matter flags flying frequently drove by, often hurling harsh words and derogatory hand gestures at the crowd.

They often yelled, "All lives matter."

Konner Kramer and Greg Cole were in one of those trucks.

"We are for Trump and cops," Kramer said. "They are disgracing the people that support this community. It's a simple as that."

"It's Kansas and we support law enforcement, and there is no police brutality here, that I am aware of," Cole said. "We support Donald Trump, and he supports us — the good working Americans."

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