South Central Kansas rallies in Wichita to protest the death of George Floyd

Charles Chaney
Approximately 2,000 from around the Wichita area, including those in Harvey, Butler and Sumner counties listened to speakers in hopes of justice for George Floyd on Saturday, May 30 in Wichita, Kansas.

Precious Smith didn’t start the event but she sure put on a show when the area needed it most.

As protests around the nation ramped up and with national guards being called out, many people from around south central Kansas ascended on the East 21st street police precinct in Wichita, Kansas in protest in the death of George Floyd on Saturday afternoon.

Those from around the area wore masks, held signs and chanted. The pain from the death of Floyd was apparent. Local politicians stepped up and made moving speeches. Wichita Chief of Police Gordon Ramsay stood up, spoke from the heart and as he said numerous times, the death of Floyd was avoidable, “it was murder.”

The pleas for justice from those at the rally regarding the situation in which George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died Monday after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck after he became unresponsive.

From Haven, to Newton and surrounding areas. There were multiple Andover school shirts worn and the community pitched in. Wichita State gave their parking lot for free and the Sonic Drive-In near the precinct shut down from 12-4:30 p.m.

“When I called to tell them,we were having a demonstration, they said ‘we like what you’re doing and we’re going to give you our parking lot,’” Smith said.

It’s estimated attendance was around 2,000 people showed up to protest the death of Floyd and police brutality. Many passing motorists honked, showing their support for the rally.

“Wichita and the area is unique,” Smith said. “Everyone came out, listened and you can tell we were heard.”

The very diverse crowd wore masks and tried to social distance, despite the small space. Members of the Wichita Black Alliance handed out masks and many donated water to those who needed it.

The message was consistent through most speakers. It was to keep your leaders held accountable and to get out and vote. A table was at the back of the rally, registering those to vote and for absentee ballot if needed.

“I think it points to the maturity to our leaders,” Smith said. “They understand what it will take and are willing to stake their claim by talking about accountability.”

Many signs had Floyd’s name on it or some reference to Black Lives Matter. A large banner was on the north corner of East 21st, saying “Black Lives Matter.” Other slogans, such as “No Justice, No Peace”; “I can’t breathe” and “silence = compliance.”

After numerous speakers who spoke with passion, including city councilmen, local church leaders and Kansas State senator Olathe Faust-Goudeau, the demonstrators marched west on East 21st, to grove and down to as far as 13th street, before turning around and marching back to the station.

There was a surprise appearance and speech from Wichita’s new mayor, Brandon Whipple.

There were multiple demonstrations and protests at the state capital in Topeka.

“We were peaceful today,” Smith said. “We set out to get a message across and do it the right way. We did that today. I’m very proud.”

Precious Smith (middle) and Renee Tish (right) are the ones who put on the rally. Tish started the event on Saturday, May 30 in Wichita, Kansas.